MANCHESTER, N.H. – Sophomore QB Yianni Gavalas (Manhasset, N.Y.) completed 28 of 34 passes for 415 yards and a touchdown, while running for 26 yards and two more scores on five carries, to lead the Saint Anselm College football team to a 52-26 Homecoming victory against Pace University on Saturday in front of 3,011 fans – the most since 2000 – at Grappone Stadium.
The Hawks improve to 4-0 (3-0 NE-10) for the first time in school history, while the Setters sink to 0-4, 0-3 NE-10.
Gavalas completed 12 of his passes to senior WR Justin Bernard (Cambridge, Mass.), who racked up 196 receiving yards and a touchdown as he moved to within just two catches of the NCAA Division II all-time record for receptions. Junior RB Elad Covaliu (Rockville, Md.) ran for 70 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries, in addition to catching two passes for 52 yards, while sophomore RB Joe Hayman (Brandywine, Md.) contributed 53 yards and a pair of scores on 11 rushes.
The offense, as a whole, was in sync, as it amassed 672 yards of total offense – the second most in program history – en route to putting up 38 first-half points, which erased the previous record of 35 that was set last Nov. 9 at Pace. The 415 yards through the air is the fifth best performance in school history, while the 257 yards on the ground rank eighth.
Saint Anselm started fast as it moved the ball 63 yards in seven plays over a span of just 1:37, with Gavalas running it in from two yards out to put the Hawks up 7-0 following the extra point by junior K/P Shane Grayson (Ormond Beach, Fla.) with 13:23 on the clock in the opening quarter. Grayson matched the school record he also equaled last year at Pace for PATs made as he went a perfect 7-for-7.
After senior LB Mike Tatro (No. Adams, Mass.) recovered a fumble that was forced by freshman LB Eric Mercer (Melrose, Mass.) on Pace's opening series, the offense needed just two plays and less than a minute to put seven more points up on the board as Gavalas found Bernard for a 62-yard catch-and-run touchdown that made it 14-0 with 9:03 to go following the Grayson PAT.
The defense forced a three-and-out on Pace's second drive and the quick-strike offense went to work again, crafting a six-play, 77-yard drive that took just 1:14 before Hayman's four-yard run and Grayson's kick put the Hawks on top, 21-0, just 8:39 into the contest.
The Hawks looked like they were going to have a chance to go up by four scores, but a successful fake punt by the Setters set up a 21-yard touchdown pass from Steven Demeo to Kyle Vadis that sliced the deficit to 21-7 once Jake Armstrong tacked on the extra point with 2:25 left in the first stanza.
After Grayson made it 24-7 with a 24-yard field goal early in the second quarter, another Pace punt allowed the offense to throw together another lightning-quick series as it went 64 yards in six plays and just 2:10 to stretch the lead to 31-7. Covaliu finished the drive off with a one-yard touchdown scamper and Grayson added the PAT with 10:36 remaining
Freshman LB Troy Kay (New City, N.Y.) forced a fumble on Pace's ensuing possession that was recovered by sophomore LB Kyrell Jaundoo (Cohasset, Mass.) at the Hawks' 49-yard line. The Saint Anselm offense again took advantage as it covered the 51 yards in six plays and 1:07 before scoring on its sixth consecutive drive to begin the game when Gavalas snuck it in from one yard out to widen the gap to 38-7 with 6:40 left in the second quarter after the Grayson kick.
Pace punted on its next possession, but then recovered a Saint Anselm fumble as the Hawks were held scoreless on their first series of the game with just 2:45 to go in the opening half. The Setters turned that into points as Armstrong knocked a 33-yard field goal through the uprights to cut it to 38-10 with just 51 seconds on the clock. Saint Anselm moved the ball quickly down the field, but Grayson's 42-yard field goal was blocked as time expired.
After the Saint Anselm defense forced Pace to punt to open the second half, the offense put together a 10-play, 72-yard drive that was capped by a Covaliu five-yard run and a Grayson extra point to expand to the lead to 45-10 with 8:38 left in the third.
Pace punted again on the ensuing drive, but pinned the Hawks back on their own one-yard line. That would prove to be big as an errant snap gave the Setters a safety and two points that made it 45-12 with 5:38 remaining. Pace would take the free kick and go 69 yards in just two plays as Demeo hit Kyle Johnson for 67 yards before a 2-yard Delaney Wallace touchdown run trimmed the deficit to 45-19 following the Armstrong PAT just 37 seconds after the drive began.
Following a big kick return out to the 50-yard line for sophomore WR Ryan Monette (Hampton, N.H.), the Hawks used eight plays to go the other 50 yards as Hayman finished the series with a one-yard touchdown run that ended the day for the Saint Anselm starters and made it 52-19 after Grayson's kick with 2:20 left in the third quarter.
Pace would tack on a score with 2:15 to go in the game when Demeo hooked up with Johnson from 18 yards out before an Armstrong PAT closed the scoring.
Senior WR Brandon Gomes (Providence, R.I.) made five catches for 72 yards, while fellow senior WR Ahkeen Williams (DeWitt, N.Y.) had four grabs for 61 yards. Freshman RB Isaiah Douglas (Attleboro, Mass.) racked up 48 yards on nine carries and freshman quarterback Matt Phelan (Whitinsville, Mass.) ate up 34 yards on the ground with just three rushes.
Defensively, senior DL Justin Waltzer (Danbury, Conn.) made a team-high seven tackles, including 2.5 for a loss and a sack. Junior DB Carroll Bailey (Clinton, Mass.) tallied six tackles and a sack, while senior DL Josh Cheever (Lynn, Mass.) recorded five tackles and a sack.
The Hawks return to action Saturday, Oct. 4 at 1 p.m. when they take on Merrimack College. The next home game for the Hawks is Saturday, Oct. 11 at 1 p.m. when they play host to American International College at Grappone. 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.