It’s a mistake to confuse seniority with experience. They are not the same thing. Just because a high school football team has plenty of seniors on its roster doesn’t mean that it has a lot of game experience. For a perfect example, look at the Riverhead Blue Waves.
Riverhead could basically field a team within a team with all the seniors that it has. In Riverhead ‘s final home game of the regular season on Saturday, the Blue Waves recognized 22 senior players, along with their parents, in a pregame ceremony for their service to the program. But, as this season has shown the struggling Blue Waves time and time again, seniors alone do not make for a winning team. A precious few of those 22 seniors had varsity playing experience prior to this season, and that has been painfully evident as Riverhead has dropped three straight losses and five of six Suffolk County Division II games this season.
The Comsewogue Warriors put a damper on Riverhead ‘s homecoming day celebration on Saturday with a 20-0 shutout at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field. The Blue Waves, whose playoff chances were all but crushed, looked lifeless and deflated by the way they played.
Riverhead senior defensive end Kevin Klerk said, “After the first half, we came out hooting and hollering, thinking we were going to do something, and we just didn’t follow through.”
Riverhead Coach Leif Shay sensed the same thing. “I felt that we were going to play with more passion than we did,” he said. “It just seemed like we didn’t have a spark the whole day.”
Fourth-place Comsewogue (4-2), which appears headed for the playoffs, had its share of sparks from its quarterback, Matt Scalera, its running back/linebacker, Vin Masone, and its defense.
Scalera ran for one touchdown and threw for another. Masone, who had missed the previous two games with a deep thigh bruise, returned to action in a big way. The senior with thighs that look like tree trunks, proved difficult to bring down, eating up 102 yards on 31 carries.
“He’s almost there,” Comsewogue Coach Chuck Carron replied when asked how Masone looked. “He’s 6-foot-2, he’s 230 pounds, and he runs hard. It’s physics.”
Masone said he had played a couple of games with the thigh bruise, the result of hits he had taken to his right thigh. Now, he said, he feels good.
“It feels great to be back,” he said.
Comsewogue’s ground game was the story of the game. The Warriors ran 63 offensive plays, and 59 of them were runs. With Masone’s yardage and another 92 yards from Scalera, Comsewogue gained 247 yards on the ground and had the ball for 33 minutes 51 seconds to Riverhead ‘s 14:09. The Blue Waves had possession for only 5:50 of the first half. Their longest series of offensive plays in the game consumed only 2:40 off the clock.
“They just ran it right down [our] throat,” Shay said. If “we can’t stop them and we can’t move the ball, it’s going to be a rough day.”
Comsewogue opened the game with an 80-yard drive that ended with a five-yard run off the right side and into the end zone by Scalera. All 15 plays on the drive were runs.
The Warriors upped their lead to 12-0 on a six-yard burst up the middle by Matt Welsch with 2 minutes 48 seconds left in the first half.
Comsewogue then scored on its first series in the third quarter, with Scalera finding Roger Willenbrock for a nine-yard connection.
“You saw it,” Shay said. “We got beat up on both sides of the ball.”
Riverhead never really looked like a threat to score although it reached as far as the Comsewogue 16- and 19-yard lines on separate series before seeing the drives die on downs.
“I didn’t expect for them to play the way that they did, and I did not expect our team to play as poorly as we did,” Klerk said. “I feel that we have an identity crisis. We can’t get it done, and we need to get it done.”
One of the few bright spots for Riverhead was the individual play of several of its defensive players, including Owen Keupp (12 tackles), Reggie Moore (11 tackles), Mario Carrera (10 tackles), Michael Curaba (seven tackles, two passes defended) and Klerk (six tackles, one sack).
Klerk was sitting in Shay’s office after the game, looking clearly upset about the loss, when he was asked near the end of an interview if he had anything else to say.
“No words,” he said, “just disappointed.”