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LIU Post loses in second round to Shephard University

LIU Post Pioneers quarterback Jeff  Kidd (2) passes

LIU Post Pioneers quarterback Jeff  Kidd (2) passes against the Shepherd Rams at the LIU Post Pioneers on Saturday November 25, 2016. Credit: Lee S Weissman

They might have lost Saturday, but the LIU Post football team and its followers believe that this season is the beginning of a new chapter after watching these Pioneers set a few team records.

So, even after No. 2 Post fell to No. 3 Shepherd University at home, 40-21, in a second-round game of the NCAA Division II playoffs, coach Bryan Collins was proud.

“When you talk about leaving a legacy or building for the future, various programs talk about one specific year,” he said. “And I think what this group has accomplished — the first to win 12 games; the first to host two playoff games . . . I think they’ve accomplished a lot.”

Senior quarterback Jeff Kidd, who completed 25 of 43 passes for 288 yards, a touchdown and an interception, helmed a Pioneers team that entered play 12-0 and averaged 38.3 points per game.

“We’re definitely pleased that we won the league and we were undefeated until this point, but we obviously wanted to go further than this, so it’s hard to be completely satisfied without ending the season on a win,” he said.

Missed opportunities in the red zone were partially to blame for Post’s loss. After freshman Brandon Hlavach, who had 177 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries for Shephard (12-0), rushed for a 31-yard score on the game’s opening drive, Post answered with a 12-play, 66-yard drive.

But the possession ended when Kidd completed a pass to Malik Pierre, a Sachem North graduate, who was stripped on Shepherd’s 2-yard line by Octavius Thomas.

“That was a really big deal because they could’ve put up some points, but that turnover got the ball back to our offense,” said Shepherd defensive end Myles Humphrey.

Post scored on its next possession when Pierre ran in from the 1-yard line, and the score stayed tied at 7-7 after the first.

Shepherd took control in the second. After quarterback Jeff Ziemba (25 of 35, 375 yards, four touchdowns) found 6-4 receiver Billy Brown (11 catches, 189 yards, three touchdowns) for a touchdown, the teams traded punts.

Post then had another drive stall in the red zone. Kidd led the Pioneers down to Shepherd’s 10-yard line before Pierre and Michael Campbell each rushed for no gain. Scott Dixon and Humphrey sacked Kidd for an 8-yard loss on the next play, bringing up 4th-and-18.

Collins decided to leave the offense on the field instead of attempting a 35-yard field goal, and Kidd threw an incomplete pass to Shane Hubbard (10 catches, 155 yards) in the back corner of the end zone, resulting in a turnover on downs.

Shepherd responded with a touchdown and scored again before the quarter ended. Post trailed 26-7 at halftime and couldn’t overcome the deficit.

The Pioneers continued on late in the fourth, even when the game appeared out of reach. Perhaps that’s part of the new culture Collins’ group has created.

“I think we’ve built a culture here where hard work pays off,” Kidd said. “I think we built a culture of ‘team-first, look out for your brother.’ I think we built a culture of ‘you’re not going to get away with things on or off the field.’ That culture we set early on, and we’ve done things internally to make sure that happens.”

And even though a championship won’t be part of this team’s legacy, beginning a new era of success might be.

“They set the bar high for our program to continue on and build there,” Collins said. “People have their work to do. They set the bar very high and established a legacy for themselves.”


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