MANCHESTER, N.H. – Senior RB Keith Charles (Laurel, Md.) submitted a performance fit for Senior Night and went over 2,000 yards rushing for his career in the process. All that was missing was the win. The Saint Anselm College football team played its best game of the season Friday night, but again came away empty-handed as Long Island University-LIU Post scored a touchdown with 24 seconds left in regulation to steal a 41-40 victory and spoil the Senior Night festivities at Grappone Stadium.
The Hawks drop to 0-9 on the season and 0-8 in Northeast-10 play, while the Pioneers improve to 4-5, 3-5 NE-10.
Charles carried the ball a career-high 28 times and ran for 92 yards and a pair of scores as he finished the night with 2,031 yards to become just Saint Anselm's second 2,000-yard rusher. The co-captain also matched a career best with 10 catches, including one for a score, and set a new career high with 160 receiving yards. Add in his two kick returns for 45 yards and Charles amassed 297 all-purpose yards – the third most in program history and just six yards shy of Marc Wilson's record of 303. Charles closed the night with 5,361 career all-purpose yards and moved to within 276 yards of Wilson's all-time mark of 5,637.
Overshadowed by Charles' big night was the play of freshman QB Yianni Gavalas (Manhasset, N.Y.). In just the second start of his career, Gavalas threw for 430 yards – tied for the second best single-game mark all-time at Saint Anselm – as he went 27-for-39 with three touchdowns and just one interception, which came on a hail mary in the final play of the contest. The rookie also ran 11 times for 43 yards as he amassed 473 yards of total offense to place third in the single-game record book. Gavalas also hooked up with Charles on an 83-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the second quarter that stands as the third longest pass play in program history.
Buried even deeper behind the top two story lines of the night was junior WR Justin Bernard (Cambridge, Mass.). All he did was reel in 10 passes for 185 yards – the fourth most in a Saint Anselm single game – and a touchdown. Ho-hum for the Hawks' single-game, single-season and career leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches.
Despite all that, the Hawks lost in a contest that featured more than 1,200 yards of total offense, including nearly 900 through the air. While the defense gave up 681 total yards, it came up with big stops when the team needed them and managed four takeaways. The offense, in return, did not turn the ball over until the final play of the game.
Trailing 34-30 early in the fourth quarter, Saint Anselm moved the ball 62 yards in six plays – highlighted by Gavalas' 48-yard connection to Bernard. Charles punched it in three plays later from three yards out and the Hawks took a 37-34 lead after the extra point by sophomore K/P Shane Grayson (Ormond Beach, Fla.) with 12:32 remaining.
The Pioneers responded by driving all the way down to the Saint Anselm 7-yard line, but on the 12th play of the drive, Steven Laurino was picked off in the end zone by junior DB Mike Tatro (North Adams, Mass.). The Hawks kept momentum on their side as they put together a nine-play, 69-yard drive that culminated in a 28-yard field goal from Grayson to expand the lead to 40-34 with 4:14 on the clock.
LIU had plenty of time to work with, but that disappeared on the ninth play of the ensuing drive when Laurino was intercepted over the middle by sophomore DB Chad O'Neill (Herndon, Va.). Saint Anselm could not seal the deal, however, as a third-and-three rush produced only two yards and the Hawks were forced to kick it away.
The Pioneers had 1:18 on the clock and repeatedly used the left sideline on a seven-play, 93-yard drive that was capped by a 10-yard Sean Binckes touchdown pass from Laurino with 24 ticks left. Karsten Viste split the uprights with the extra point and LIU had a 41-40 lead.
After a 23-yard kick return from Charles, Saint Anselm started out at its own 34. Gavalas' 17-yard strike to junior WR Ahkeen Williams (DeWitt, N.Y.) moved the Hawks into Pioneer territory, but an incomplete pass with four seconds to go forced Gavalas to heave one to the end zone and it was intercepted at the 2-yard line to end the game.
Saint Anselm rang up a season-high 565 yards of total offense, including 135 on the ground.
After a 28-yard field goal from Grayson put the Hawks in front early at 3-0, a pair of Laurino-to-Binckes scores made it 14-3 in favor of the visitors at the end of the first quarter and it looked like Saint Anselm might be in for a long day. An 11-yard Charles touchdown run, however, followed by the aforementioned 83-yard Charles catch-and-run, gave the Hawks a 16-14 edge just under five minutes into the second stanza.
Following a five-play, 71-yard drive that lasted just 1:43 and ended with a four-yard touchdown pass from Laurino to Mike Williams, Saint Anselm answered with a 74-yard drive that took eight plays and 2:13 of clock. Gavalas found junior WR Brandon Gomes (Providence, R.I.) in the back left corner of the end zone and Grayson tacked on the PAT to put the hosts up, 23-21, with 1:25 remaining in the opening half. The Pioneers quickly went 42 yards in 10 plays and 1:19 as Viste drilled a 42-yard field goal as time expired to give LIU the slight 24-23 advantage heading into the locker room.
Binckes' third touchdown catch of the evening opened the third-quarter scoring with 6:30 remaining, but the Hawks matched it 41 seconds later as Gavalas found Bernard for a 73-yard touchdown up the left sideline that kept it a one-point game at 31-30. Viste chipped a 26-yard field goal through the uprights four seconds into the fourth quarter to widen the gap to four and set the stage for a wild finish.
Sophomore DB Carroll Bailey (Clinton, Mass.) led the Hawks with 11 tackles and three pass breakups, while junior DB Tyrel McDonald (Leominster, Mass.) recorded eight stops and three breakups. Junior DL Andrew Lebowitz (Andover, Mass.) gave the defense good push up front all night and tallied eight tackles.
The Hawks return to action in their regular-season finale Saturday, Nov. 9 at 1 p.m. when they travel to take on Pace University. Stay up-to-date with the latest news, including game previews and recaps, directly from the Saint Anselm College athletic department by liking us on Facebook and following us on Twitter @STAHawks.