A big lead had shrunk to the slimmest of margins, but LIU Post didn’t flinch. The offense had the ball, and that meant the Pioneers’ quarterback was one happy kid.
“They make me look so good. It makes my job 10 times easier to just get the ball to the playmakers and let them do what they do best,” Post quarterback Jeff Kidd said.
Post ran out the final 5:43 on Saturday to hold off Winston-Salem State, 48-41, in a first-round game of the NCAA Division II Super Region I playoff.
“Everyone on the offense would agree that we like to put the game in our hands,” said Kidd, who completed 25 of 34 passes for 320 yards and four touchdowns. “We’re not scared of the moment. We never have been and we won’t be. This group is special.”
The special moments will continue for the Pioneers (12-0), who advanced to the second round of the regional playoffs against Shepherd (West Virginia) University next Saturday at LIU Post (time TBA).
Winston-Salem State finished 9-3 and made it more than interesting with a fourth-quarter flurry.
Kerrion Moore (148 yards rushing) scored on a 2-yard run with 11:23 left to cut Post’s lead to 48-31. WSSU forced a punt and drove for a field goal with 6:32 left, making it even more interesting.
Then it became downright tense when the Rams recovered a pooch-style onsides kick at the Post 26 and scored on a 22-yard pass from Rod Tinsley (278 yards passing) to Canard Brown. That made it 48-41 with 5:43 left.
It was time for the Whiz Kidds to make a play, and they did. In fact, they made several.
On third down, Shane Hubbard (six catches, 81 yards, one TD) gained 31 yards on a huge catch-and-run. Malik Pierre (115 yards on 18 carries, three touchdowns) converted another third down with a 5-yard run and David White (134 yards, 20 carries) iced it with a 6-yard run on third-and-6. The Pioneers, who average 38.3 points per game, were on Winston-State’s 8-yard line when the game ended.
The Pioneers were balanced with 261 yards rushing and 278 yards passing. They were diverse, with Pierre and White sharing most of the ballcarrying load and seven different receivers catching Kidd’s passes. Kyle Ward caught five for 72 and James Higgins grabbed five for 67. Each scored a touchdown.
“It opens the passing lane when we can run. It opens the running game when we can pass,” Kidd said. “I’m not afraid to throw to any receiver.”
When Post gets into the red zone, Pierre, a former Sachem North star, often gets the call. He scored on 2-, 5- and 1-yard runs to improve his team-high total to 18 touchdowns.
“I love to score touchdowns, obviously, but every time we get near the end zone, everyone on the offensive line just pins their ears back and blocks,” Pierre said.
Said Kidd, “It’s definitely part of the offense that when we get near the goal line, Malik gets the ball.”
At other spots on the field, Hubbard often gets the call. He made a spectacular diving catch for a 10-yard touchdown in the first quarter, suffered an injury that sidelined him for several series in the second quarter, and returned to make a huge contribution on the final clock-killing drive. He caught a third-down pass near the sideline, but instead of going out of bounds, Hubbard broke a slew of tackles as he cut back to the middle to turn a short gain into a long one.
“I just ran my route, got separation, caught the ball and everything else was dedication,” Hubbard said. “I didn’t want to go down. My team needed those extra yards.”
It’s a team that is the first in school history to win 12 games and the first to host a second playoff game. They truly are Pioneers.
Said coach Bryan Collins, “We talked about practicing on Thanksgiving Day.”
BY THE NUMBERS
Average margin of victory