No one tell LIU Post football, but it’s not supposed to look this easy.
You’re not supposed to lose your quarterback for two weeks and bounce back like nothing ever happened. And if an opposing team opens up the game with the first nine points (three FGs), you shouldn’t be able to brush it off as a mild inconvenience.
But not the Pioneers, not in this storybook year. Saturday afternoon, they made undefeated look so, so easy. And that Northeast-10 conference championship title? Why, they were just claiming what had long seemed rightfully theirs.
Quarterback Jeff Kidd — now fully recovered from his knee injury — was 14-for-27 for 203 yards with three touchdowns and Malik Pierre ran for 110 yards and two TDs as the No. 10 Pioneers weathered an early scare to defeat No. 15 Assumption, 43-23, at Bethpage Stadium in Brookville. LIU Post (11-0) advanced to the Division II playoffs.
“I just feel especially grateful for my defense, which played very well, and my offensive line, which took control of the game,” said Kidd, who started slow but finally started clicking in the last minutes of the first quarter. “They really had my back early in the game and they really led the whole team . . . It was our best team win of the year.”
Assumption made it to the red zone three times in the first quarter — twice as a result of interceptions — but had to settle for field goals all three times, as the Pioneers goal-line defense stepped up while the rest of the team was still finding its groove. And it was those stops, coach Bryan Collins said, that changed the tenor of the game and now, the season.
“I think it was just settling in” in the beginning, he said. “It’s a totally different game being down 21-0 and 9-0. It’s funny — we did spend one extra day on goal-line defense this week and so it paid off obviously. It was key to the football game.”
After that, Kidd — surrounded by an offensive line that seemed capable of stopping time — took control, hitting Kyle Ward on a fade for a 33-yard touchdown with 47 seconds left in the first. Kidd’s seven-yard TD pass Shane Hubbard with 9:04 left in the second quarter gave the Pioneers the 13-9 lead and gave Hubbard a page in Pioneers history — the senior now owns the program’s touchdown reception record, with 31.
After Joey Tolgyesi’s 41-yard field goal, Pierre scored three straight touchdowns, including an 87-yard kickoff return to start the second half — a ball that he first struggled to pick up before recovering and leaving everyone else in the dirt.
“Especially with my injury (earlier this year), I felt that (the offensive line) felt that extra push to protect me,” Kidd said. “They have gone the extra mile at practice, they’ve gone the extra mile in the weight room, they’ve gone the extra mile in games and they — I think every single one of them stepped up in the biggest way today.”
Those players included James Louison, a redshirt sophomore who played at Hauppauge High School and sprung some big holes at right tackle. Collins also singled out left guard Chris Coles and right guard Joseph Lacey.
And despite all appearances to the contrary, it actually wasn’t as effortless as it looked. LIU Post beat Assumption by only one point in their meeting earlier this year and nobody, no matter how good, can coast to a perfect season or a conference title. Just ask Kidd about those opening minutes, where very little seemed to go as planned.
“I wasn’t seeing the field as great as I like to but once I calmed down, settled in and let the game come to me and slowed the game down a little bit, the whole momentum changed,” he said. “That’s because the defense was making stops and that’s because the offensive line was pushing and our running backs were running. They let me get into a comfort zone.”