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Yianni Gavalas, Malik Pierre, LIU Post make case for playoffs

LIU Post Pioneers running back Malik Pierre tries

LIU Post Pioneers running back Malik Pierre tries to break away from Merrimack Warriors defensive back Jovan Grant during an NCAA Division II football game. Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017. Credit: Lee S Weissman

With one final opportunity to make its case for the upcoming NCAA Division II playoffs, LIU Post made every effort it could to produce a statement win in its season finale.

Quarterback Yianni Gavalas completed 24 of 38 passes for 256 yards and three touchdowns, and running back Malik Pierre kept the defense honest with 168 yards on 19 carries, as the Pioneers (8-2) closed out the regular season with a 45-7 drubbing at Saint Anselm (1-9) on Saturday.

For Gavalas, the meeting was a homecoming of sorts. The graduate student from Manhasset spent his first four seasons leading Saint Anselm before transferring to Post prior to this season.

“It was nice to see all those guys, but once it was time to play football, I was ready to go out there and play,” Gavalas said.

Coach Bryan Collins said he and his fellow Pioneers created a lighthearted atmosphere with Gavalas regarding his return to New Hampshire in the form of “a Carmelo Anthony-like ‘Coming Home’ video with highlights from his time there.” He was honored before kickoff by his former running mates.

“We had fun and jokes about it all week,” Collins said.

Gavalas scored on a 1-yard run with 5:41 remaining in the second quarter to give Post a 17-0 lead at the half. The Pioneers tacked on two additional touchdowns — including Nazir Streater’s 99-yard kickoff return to open the second half — before Post surrendered their first points of the day with 2:03 left in the third.

Mike Richardson followed up with two touchdown receptions, breaking the program record for touchdown catches in a season with 14. He caught nine balls for 82 yards and two touchdowns.

“Mike’s got a great pair of hands,” Collins said. “He gets every 50-50 ball that’s up there. He doesn’t have to be open to catch the football.”

Post entered Saturday’s action ranked No. 10 in Super Region I, and must finish in the top seven to qualify for the playoffs. However, with four teams in front of the Pioneers losing Saturday, including Slippery Rock, West Chester, Notre Dame and Assumption, Collins remains confident in Post’s odds.

The final polls will be announced Sunday at 5 p.m.

“I feel good about it,” Collins said. “I think we have an impressive resume. We started strong, slipped up a little bit and real ly got back on track. We have a proven record and have been there before.”

“We’ve done all we can do,” Gavalas said. “So hopefully, things work out in our favor.”

New York Sports