So much for wide-ranging Senior Day emotions overwhelming LIU Post on Saturday.
The Pioneers, sparked by quarterback Yianni Gavalas, receivers Amir Crenshaw and Michael Richardson and a stout defensive effort, put together an inspired performance in a 49-7 victory over Merrimack. The seniors and outgoing graduate students were honored at midfield alongside family members prior to kickoff.
Being a graduate student, this wasn’t Gavalas’ first Senior Day honor.
“It was a little different having two Senior Days,” said Gavalas, who completed 26 of 43 passes for 363 yards, five touchdowns with one interception. “But I feel like I’m part of this family, too, and it was still a little emotional for me.”
Earlier in the week coach Bryan Collins stressed the importance of overcoming those emotional hurdles in order to keep their playoff hopes alive entering Post’s final game next week.
“This has been a special group of seniors,” Collins said. “They’re really a brotherhood that loves to play for each other, so they got themselves ready to go.”
Collins was particularly moved watching his son, Tyler, a senior receiver, earn recognition during the ceremony.
“I’ve just been very blessed,” Bryan said. “There are always tradeoffs as a football coach. I’ve been very fortunate to share his last five years here. I’m extremely proud of the man he’s become.”
“I’ve been around this program since I was a little kid,” Tyler said. “It’s great to have this football bond with my dad.”
The Pioneers (7-2) were business as usual on the opening possession as Gavalas lofted a 28-yard touchdown pass to Richardson with 11:16 remaining in the first quarter, followed by Gavalas’ two-point conversion pass to Tim Marinan that gave Post an 8-0 lead. Richardson added a 25-yard touchdown with 5:58 left in the quarter to make it 15-0 Pioneers.
“They tried to play us man-to-man and our coaches prepared us for it,” said Richardson, who had seven receptions for 108 yards and two touchdowns.
Richardson would be outdone by only Amir Crenshaw, who punished the Merrimack (3-6) secondary with seven catches for 154 yards and three touchdowns.
Crenshaw’s final score, a 30-yard reception at the 2:39 mark in the third, widened the Post margin to 49.
“I just trusted the game plan,” Crenshaw said. “Our offensive line and quarterback were great.”
Gavalas’ one-yard touchdown run with 14 seconds left in the first half made it 39-0 for Post.
The defense, led by senior lineman and captain Anthony DeNunzio’s three tackles, two pass breakups and three quarterback hits, produced another dominant display. The Warriors had zero rushing yards in the first half and Merrimack quarterback C.J. Scarpa was limited to 183 yards, one touchdown and was intercepted once.
On a celebratory day, the Pioneers’ excitement was amplified by the prospect of their postseason hopes continuing. Post will play its regular-season finale Saturday at Saint Anselm and entered the day ranked No. 9 in Super Region One, with the top seven teams qualifying.
“We feel good entering next week,” Gavalas said. “Hopefully we win and the chips fall in our favor.”