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Malik Pierre, LIU Post want to avoid letdown against Pace

LIU Post running back Malik Pierre runs the ball

LIU Post running back Malik Pierre runs the ball during a game against Southern Connecticut State on Oct. 14, 2017. Credit: Lee S. Weissman

Malik Pierre certainly astounded in his four-touchdown performance in No. 9 LIU Post’s 10-touchdown show last Saturday against American International, but lighting up the scoreboard did not shock the Pioneers.

“I think we’ve always had the potential to put up a lot of points,” coach Bryan Collins said of the 70-21 throttling. “I think one thing we can kind of rely on is our offense being capable of doing just that.”

Post (5-2) and its high-powered offense are now locked in on avoiding a major letdown in Saturday’s matchup against Pace (3-4).

Pierre earned Northeast-10 Offensive Player of the Week honors after totaling 134 yards and three touchdowns on just eight carries against AIC. Pierre also had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown.

“The offensive line and special teams have been great, but after we went through that two-game losing streak earlier in the year I knew I needed to step up,” Pierre said.

“I know that if Malik gets even the slightest running lane he’s gonna get through it and get a lot of yards,” said quarterback Yianni Gavalas, who threw for 184 yards and four touchdowns on 14 of 16 passing. “Any pass game needs a good run game to complement it. He definitely opens up a lot of passing lanes for us.”

Collins, however, is now concerned with bottling up Pierre’s counterpart on Pace, Jhalen Bien-Aime, who leads the conference in rushing with 875 yards and six touchdowns. Currently averaging 5.5 yards per carry, he was injured in last year’s meeting, a 35-17 Post win.

“Stopping Bien-Aime will be all about gap-control from our defensive line,” Collins said. “We have to make sure to have our hats in the right gaps.”

Pace quarterback Dan Anarella also reminded he’s a viable threat after last week’s 35-34 loss to Saint Anselm, completing 14 of 26 passes for 319 yards and three touchdowns.

In terms of Pace’s defense, Gavalas said the Pioneers must be prepared to face various different schemes from a Setters’ defense that has allowed only 19.4 points per game this season.

With three games remaining and the first regional rankings released earlier in the week revealing Post at No. 10 in Super Region One, Gavalas is confident about the Pioneers finishing in the top-seven and qualifying for the NCAA Division II Tournament.

“We feel optimistic,” Gavalas said. “As long as we win the next three games then we’ve done all we could and we’ll see how it all plays out.”

“We’re feeling really good,” Pierre said. “We’re confident, but we still have the edge we need.”

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