Lake Erie football building with Florida recruits

Feb. 20—Year 2 of the Demir Boldin era for Lake Erie football is in full-go mode.

For Boldin, that means — for now — going to where it all began for him while building the Storm program. Last season as a rookie head coach, LEC was 3-8. The football team is still looking for its first-ever winning season as an official Division II member.

Boldin, 36, was born in Pahokee, Fla., and the Sunshine State is where he's plucking talent to Lake County. The state of Florida has long been known for outstanding high school football talent, and Boldin knows that.

He also knows there's plenty of talent in Ohio. But for now he's taking the slow approach to recruiting in the Buckeye state.

"Year 2, my expectations are to continue to build," said Boldin, who expects to bring in 45 to 50 recruits. "Our second recruiting class is in my image, the type of players that I want."

Many of the Storm's confirmed 29 recruits hail from Florida in cities such as Naples, Sarasota, Tampa and others.

"Maybe I'm a little bias, but I think some of the best football talent is from Florida," said Boldin, who confirmed five players are set to transfer in the spring with the potential for more. "We're talking about game-changers, and trying to make team faster. It's not a knock against Ohio and Pennsylvania. It's that we're competing against teams from the GLIAC and PSAC. We're competing against programs that I believe have more than we have."

Therein lies the reality for LEC football — a program that does not have its own football stadium. It shares Jack Britt Stadium with Harvey High School. LEC's tuition is also more expensive than many D-II colleges that play football, including some in its own conference. Attending LEC costs a little more than $33,000 per year, according to the school's website.

Another factor to consider is what constitutes an athletic scholarship at the D-II level. Many do not cover the cost of attendance.

Three other Ohio institutions in LEC's conference — the Great Midwest Athletic Conference — have yearly tuition costs considerably lower. According to each's websites, Ohio Dominican's is about $16,000, Walsh University about $15,000 and Ashland about $13,000.

Ashland, for example, is a top-tier Division II football program with plenty of success, a long history, and a top-notch football stadium.

Boldin is a realist. For now, he's stockpiling talent the best way he can. The plan is to build, create a successful program and eventually hit Ohio and other recruiting spots closer to LEC.

"At the end of the day, I want to win," said Boldin. "I want to win the GMAC. I've got schools like Ashland on my radar. But right now, we have to find our niche. Florida guys are the equalizers for us."

LEC standouts transfer

Two of LEC's top players on offense in 2022 — quarterback Gerald Gardner and wide receiver Nate Dantley — have transferred.

The players have one year of eligibility remaining because of the COVID-19 waiver. Dantley is at D-II Texas A&M Kingsley, and Gardner, who grew up in Houston, transferred to D-II national power Angelo State in Texas.

Last season, Gardner led the GMAC in passing yards with 3,092 and threw for 22 touchdowns. Dantley was fourth in the conference in receiving yards with 834 on 57 receptions.

Dantley's former teammate, receiver Peyton Brown will be back in the fall, said Boldin. In 2022, Brown was second in the GMAC with 1,079 receiving yards on 65 receptions and had nine TDs.

Boldin said Gardner's 2022 backup, Xavier Bullock, will enter spring drills as the team's No. 1 signal-caller.