Coming off of a thrilling 48-41 victory against Winston-Salem State University in the first round of the NCAA Division II Tournament, the LIU Post football team faced their toughest test this season and suffered a 40-21 loss at the hands of Shepherd University on Saturday, Nov. 26, at Bethpage Federal Credit Union Stadium in Brookville.
The Pioneers’ loss is the team’s first of the season, rounding out a historic campaign with a 12-1 record.
The 12 wins are a program record, as are the two playoff games.
With the win, the Rams from Shepherd University move on to face California University of Pennsylvania in the quarterfinals.
In the game, the Pioneers were dealt a blow early when the Rams marched down the field on their opening possession and scored a touchdown.
Their drive went for six plays and 63 yards and finished with a 31-yard scamper by freshman halfback Brandon Hlavach.
On their ensuing drive, the Pioneers attempted to answer that score with one of their own, but a costly turnover in the red-zone kept the Pioneers off the scoreboard.
After the defense forced a punt, the Pioneer offense made sure to get in the end zone, with a one-yard run by red-shirt sophomore running back Malik Pierre to even the score at seven apiece.
The score stood at 7-7 until the end of the first quarter, but the Rams unleashed a 19-point unanswered outburst to take a commanding 26-7 lead into halftime.
Senior quarterback Jeff Ziemba tossed all three touchdowns, two to senior 6”4’ pass catcher Billy Brown and one to senior receiver CJ Davis — the last score coming just 23 seconds before halftime.
The Pioneers fought valiantly until the end, cutting the deficit to 12 twice during the second half, but the Ram offense was in rhythm and could not be stopped.
They scored in response to Pioneer touchdowns twice and capped off the win with Brown’s third receiving touchdown of the day with 4:27 left in the game.
Senior LIU Post quarterback Jeff Kidd went 25-for-43 through the air for 288 yards and a touchdown and was also sacked four times.
His counterpart, Ziemba, threw for 375 yards and four scores.
The Pioneer running game, which played a huge part in their win against Winston-Salem, was held to under 100 yards, but scored two touchdowns.
In the receiving department, Brown stole the show for the Rams, totaling 11 catches for 189 yards and three touchdowns.
Kidd’s favorite target, red-shirt senior wide out Shane Hubbard, finished with 10 catches and 155 yards.
Defensively, senior linebacker Nate Feliz had a game-high 10 tackles and a sack.
Red-shirt junior defensive lineman Anthony DeNunzio had nine tackles to go along with a sack and pass break up, while freshman defensive back Joshua Flowers made nine tackles and two pass break ups.