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Football Falls Short to Merrimack in Road Opener

By Thomas Scavetta
Staff Writer

With only four minutes remaining in regulation, the Pioneers (1-2) held a 17-13 lead over the Warriors of Merrimack College (2-1), but were unable to hold off the hosts who rallied past LIU for the 19-17 victory on Saturday, Sept. 20, at Martone-Mejail Field in North Andover, Mass.Screen Shot 2014-09-23 at 22.13.49

The Warriors drew two crucial defensive penalties during their game-winning drive to
set themselves up with excellent field position at the Pioneer 40-yard line. Just a few plays later, freshman Warrior quarterback Joe Capobianco connected with junior tailback Armond McRae for the 26-yard game-winning score. However, the Pioneers blocked the extra point, which gave red-shirt senior quarterback Steven Laurino the chance to showcase his late-game heroics for
the second straight week. The Pioneers ended
up failing to secure a first down as Laurino’s fourth down pass attempt was batted away by the Warrior defensive line. LIU Post racked up 409 total yards compared to 386 for Merrimack. The Pioneers out-gained their opposition, but the Warriors played tough and won the defensive battle by shutting down the Green and Gold on their final possession.

After leading 3-0 in the early stages of the contest, a 28-yard pass from Laurino to junior tight end Seann Binckes set up the Pioneers with a first and goal from the Warriors’ four-yard line. Two costly penalties knocked the Green and Gold out of field goal range, forcing them to punt. Three possessions later, a Laurino fumble led to a Merrimack score giving them the 7-3 advantage, which would hold up heading into halftime.

As the 3rd quarter commenced, the Pioneers got off to an electric start, and forced the Warriors to turn it over on downs leading to a six-play 52-yard drive, capped off by a four-yard touchdown scramble by Laurino. Holding onto a 10-7 lead into the 4th quarter, the Pioneers allowed the Warriors to regain their momentum as Capobianco hit junior wideout Jere Brown for a 46-yard pass on the opening snap of the period. With the ball at the nine-yard line, the Warriors faced a 3rd-and-goal, where Capobianco fired a bullet to freshman wideout Cody Demers to put Merrimack back ahead 13-10. Senior kicker Nick Zwaan failed to convert on the extra point keeping it a three-point deficit for the Pioneers. Post responded with a vengeance, as Laurino rolled out and threw a 30-yard touchdown pass on third down to Palmer at the 7:46 mark. The Pioneers, who had an impressive 7-of-15 on third down in the game, jumped back in control for the time being and had the lead 17-13.

Laurino finished 20-of-39 for 229 yards and a touchdown. In addition, he picked up 66 yards on the ground and a touchdown. Red-shirt sophomore tailback Mike Williams led the squad with 97 net yards on the ground. Palmer and red- shirt sophomore wideout Shane Hubbard each hauled in seven receptions. Defensively, red-shirt junior linebacker Brandon Cheney and red-shirt senior linebacker Anthony Brunetti made 13 tackles apiece. Brunetti added a fumble recovery and an interception to his stellar outing. Junior linebacker Jhaleel Oswald forced two fumbles and recorded six tackles.

Head Coach Bryan Collins and the Pioneers look to bounce back as they continue their three-game road trip against NE-10 rival Assumption next Saturday, Sept. 27, in Worcester, Mass. Kickoff is slated for 1 p.m.

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