Coming off two consecutive losses for the first time since 2014, LIU Post entered Saturday in unfamiliar territory.
And quarterback Yianni Gavalas helped navigate the Pioneers back to their winning ways.
Gavalas completed 19 of 31 passes for 375 yards, three touchdowns and an interception to end the Pioneers’ recent slide in a 52-35 homecoming victory over rival Southern Connecticut State.
The performance signaled a significant turnaround for Gavalas, who threw a total of five interceptions in back-to-back losses to Bentley and Assumption.
“This was a big win for us,” Gavalas said. “My teammates were picking me up and we overcame adversity.”
“I didn’t tell anything,” Post coach Bryan Collins said. “We’re a confident team.”
Running back/kick returner Malik Pierre and wide receiver Michael Richardson also demonstrated supreme confidence with three touchdowns each.
Gavalas found Richardson on a 29-yard, over-the-shoulder touchdown reception in the back corner of the end zone, as Post took a 28-7 lead with 4:18 left in the half.
The Pioneers entered halftime with a 14-point edge after Owls quarterback Raymond Catapano (Carey High) zipped a 30-yard touchdown pass to Paris Crawford with 21 seconds left in the half.
Pierre tacked on an 11-yard touchdown run 4:51 into the second half, extending Post’s lead to 35-14. He dominated with 169 yards on 28 carries.
“The offensive line and fullbacks created huge holes for me,” Pierre said.
Catapano kept the Owls within reach with two straight touchdown passes in the third to cut the Post lead to 35-28 with 45 seconds left in the quarter.
But Tim Marinan gave the Pioneers new life on the second play of the fourth by taking a Gavalas shovel pass 84 yards for a touchdown.
Ahead 45-35 with 5:40 remaining, Gavalas floated a 58-yard touchdown pass to Richardson down the right sideline to seal Post’s first victory since Sept. 16.
“I was just attacking,” said Richardson, who hauled in seven receptions for 162 yards.
Following two lopsided defeats, Collins said his team needed a fast start Saturday in order to bounce back.
And Richardson and Pierre provided a quick flurry that Post (4-2, 3-2 NE-10) continued to build upon.
Richardson’s 4-yard jet sweep touchdown on the opening drive put the Pioneers on the board. After an SCSU (1-5, 1-4 NE-10) touchdown, Pierre responded loudly by returning the ensuing kickoff 91 yards to the end zone with 7:29 left in the first quarter to give Post a 14-7 advantage.
“The return team did a good job of walling everyone off to the left,” Pierre said.
Pierre later pounded his way through the line for a 3-yard touchdown to extend Post’s lead to 21-7 with 10:03 remaining in the first half.
“Malik and Michael are big playmakers for us,” Collins said. “Yianni was great also. I’m really happy with the way the offense produced today.”