By Thomas Scavetta
Making their first NCAA appearance in nearly 10 years, the No. 6 seed LIU Post fell at the hands of third-seeded Virginia State Trojans, 28-17, in a first-round battle on Saturday, Nov. 22 at Rogers Stadium in Petersburg, VA.
After falling behind 7-0 midway through the second quarter, the Pioneers (8-4) capitalized on excellent field position and evened up the contest with 8:34 remaining in the half. The possession culminated in a 20-yard touchdown pass from red-shirt quarterback Steven Laurino to red-shirt sophomore wide receiver Shane Hubbard.
The Green and Gold managed to move the ball into the red-zone on their following drive, but senior defensive back Andre Rawls picked off a pass at his own 17-yard line, and took it back for an 83-yard touchdown giving the Trojans (10-2) a 14-7 advantage.
The Pioneers continued to overcome adversity, however, as they scored the final 10 points of the half to go out in front 17-14 at intermission. Laurino kept a one-yard keeper to nod up the score at 14 apiece, while senior kicker Karsten Viste drilled a 34-yard field goal as time expired to give the visitors their only lead of the game.
The entire second half was controlled by Virginia State, outscoring LIU Post 14-0, to advance to a second-round matchup at Bloomsburg. LIU had a couple of golden opportunities late in the game, but they failed to cash in.
Late in the third quarter, senior defensive lineman David Sumter recovered a fumble at the Trojan five-yard line, but Viste shanked a 23-yard field goal. Trailing 28-17 in the fourth, Laurino tossed his third interception of the afternoon, sealing the Pioneers fate after the defense had forced a turnover on downs.
Despite his three picks, Laurino completed 29-of-58 for 260 yards and a touchdown. Sophomore running back David White put on a show, carrying the ball 16 times for 105 yards. LIU’s backfield lost red-shirt sophomore running back Mike Williams, who was carted off the field in the early stages of the game with a leg injury. Hubbard and junior tight end Sean Binckes hauled in eight passes apiece. Hubbard collected 92 yards and a score, whereas Binckes racked up 89 yards.
On the defensive side of the ball, sophomore defensive back Jared Chester made a team-high 10 tackles. Red-shirt senior linebacker Anthony Brunetti recorded nine tackles and a pass break-up. Junior defensive back Jhaleel Oswald added seven stops, two pass deflections, and a forced fumble. Sophomore defensive lineman Kenny Scotland applied great pressure, logging two sacks.
Head Coach Bryan Collins and his team have wrapped up their 2014 campaign with an 8-4 overall record. The Pioneers saw some great collegiate careers come to an end, but they accomplished their goal of winning their first Northeast-10 Championship since 2006 and made their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2005.