For the LIU Post football team, Saturday’s showdown against Assumption won’t involve basking in the glory of last year’s 43-23 Northeast-10 Conference championship game victory.
Instead, this meeting will center on erasing a recent bad memory for the Pioneers.
“We seem to have a sense of urgency,” Post coach Brian Collins said of this week’s practice following a six-turnover, 40-21 loss at Bentley last Saturday. “Assumption is the full package.”
The Pioneers (3-1, 2-1 NE-10) lost four fumbles and quarterback Yianni Gavalas threw two interceptions despite completing 37 of 47 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns.
“What makes Yianni a special quarterback for us is that he has the same demeanor whether we win or lose,” Collins said.
With former quarterback Jeff Kidd under center for Post last season, Saturday will be Gavalas’ first matchup against Assumption. And he’s prepared for the challenge.
“I need to make better decisions as the quarterback and keep us in the game,” Gavalas said. “They’re a very disciplined team that throws a lot of different stuff at you.”
Disciplined and opportunistic. Collins said his top concern is protecting the ball against a Greyhounds squad that has seven interceptions, six fumble recoveries and has allowed a mere 10.8 points per game. Strong safety Andrew Benson has been a ballhawk with three picks.
Collins also believes special teams will be crucial.
Post running back/kick returner Malik Pierre broke loose for an 87-yard kickoff return touchdown to open the second half of the championship game, the turning point as Post took a 21-point lead. The electric score was part of a three-touchdown performance from Pierre.
After a breakout day of 123 yards on 14 carries against Bentley, Collins expects another solid display from the junior.
On the other side of the ball, the defensive line will be key after playing such a pivotal role in the last two meetings against Assumption.
Anthony DeNunzio, who had eight tackles in the title game and leads Post with four sacks this season, will be crucial for the Pioneers in their effort to slow down Assumption quarterback Marc Monks (846 yards, eight touchdowns) and top receiver Ashton Grant (23 receptions, 301 yards, three touchdowns). The Greyhounds (4-0, 3-0 NE-10) lead the conference in scoring at 45.7 points per game.
But Gavalas and his teammates are primed for the challenge, especially after last week.
“Last week was only one game,” Gavalas said. “We’re ready to bounce back.”