Greatest Athlete #12: In soccer and lacrosse, the Reh brothers formed an unstoppable duo

08/06/2011 7:57 AM |

Growing up in the Reh household in the mid 1970s required a certain competitive fire. Any task, no matter how mundane, transformed into competition.

Time to get the newspaper in the morning?

JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO | Jeff (left) and Scott Reh were inducted into the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame this year for their success in soccer and lacrosse.

JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO | Jeff (left) and Scott Reh were inducted into the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame this year for their success in soccer and lacrosse.

When none of his three boys volunteered to go outside for the paper, George Reh set up a race. He’d grab his watch and time each son to see who could get to the mailbox, snag the paper and run it back the fastest. Once the first contestant clocked in, he had to bring the paper back to the mailbox so the next brother could take his turn, a process that ultimately required a lot more work than had someone just gotten the paper in the first place. But what would be the fun in that?

Eventually their father would get to read the paper, which a few years later would come to be filled with stories of his boys’ athletic achievements.

As they grew older, the competitive fire never wavered.

At family parties, dressed in suits, they would race 40-yard dashes.

As for who would win each of these mini competitions, well, it depended on the day.

For as much as they competed against each other, when Scott, the oldest of the boys, and Jeff, just 14 months younger, teamed up together in any sport, the result was magical. They were the perfect complement of athletes, two players whose skills meshed together to create a devastating duo. Two players among 20 scattered across a field, they sang a duet to the tune of goal after goal.

At Rocky Point High School and later at Adelphi University, they became two of the greatest athletes in the history of each school.

As always, they did it together.

Mike Bowler couldn’t believe what he was seeing. Here was this talented and gifted lacrosse player, turning away the game. Bowler, who continues to coach the Rocky Point boys lacrosse team today after more than 30 years, had seen Scott Reh play as a seventh grader and was already impressed. But in the spring of his eighth-grade season, Scott decided to play golf, which had just started as a varsity team. Jeff, in seventh grade, followed his brother’s lead.

Bowler spoke to the boys’ father and gave him a simple message.

“I said, ‘Listen, I’m just telling you now, these guys are going to be phenomenal,’” Bowler recalled. “‘Trust me,’ I said. ‘They will excel at lacrosse and they’re going to get a scholarship to college.’”

That either of the boys even had an interest in lacrosse came as a blessing for Bowler. George Reh was a longtime track & field coach in the Middle Country district and his sons grew up always attending meets and invitationals. For all the sports they played over the years, track was one that never interested them.

“He never pushed us into it,” said Scott, who’s been the athletic director at Mount Sinai since 2000. “He let us do what we wanted to do, which was everything else.”

The brothers foray into the links lasted just one year. While only in eighth grade, Scott played as the team’s number one and earned All-League honors. By the next spring, it was all lacrosse.

In the fall, their sport was soccer. They enjoyed the sport and would come to be two of the best the school has ever produced, but had they grown up in a different town or a different era, their career in soccer likely never would have been.

In the mid ’80s when Scott and Jeff came through Rocky Point, the school didn’t have a football team. They both would have loved the chance to play football and the family even briefly looked into the idea of moving. They decided as a group to stay.

“That’s something that I definitely wanted to do,” Jeff said of playing football. “I still wish I could do it.”

They got a small taste of football glory shortly after college when they teamed up on a flag football team. With Jeff at quarterback and Scott playing running back/receiver and linebacker, their team advanced to the national championship in the early ’90s, which they won at the old home of the Giants and Jets in East Rutherford, N.J.

Looking back, Bowler always would have thought of Jeff Reh as a great running back.

“You see those great running backs with the hips,” Bowler said. “The shoulders, the head and the upper body kind of goes one way and the hips and legs go another way. Jeff was like that.”

“My brother was an awesome quarterback,” said Scott, who still lives in Rocky Point down the block from where he grew up. “We always said, what if?”

While their football careers never materialized, they quickly began to make a name for themselves in the version of football the rest of the world plays.

Scott was an All-League soccer player in his freshman and sophomore years playing in the midfield. Jeff, who now teaches at Eastern Suffolk BOCES and lives in Sound Beach, came up to varsity originally as a defensive player. As the legend goes, it all changed on Oct. 4, 1983.

ROBERT O'ROURK FILE PHOTO | At Adelphi Scott Reh finished his career with 161 points.

In a game against Southampton the Eagles got off to a sluggish start and failed to score in the first half. Jeff approached coach Al Ellis and asked if he could play up top. Ellis figured he had nothing to lose.

Jeff only needed five minutes to score his first goal. Soon after he added another.

He had found his niche on the soccer field.

“I remember he made the exceptional senior team and then after he went to the tryout he’s like ‘Coach, I can’t juggle the ball 500 times,’” Ellis said. “He was just a pure scorer. If he got past the last defender, he never put his hands on his head and just missed. It always went in.”

As the 1984 season began with Jeff at forward for his first full season, the Eagles had an electrifying trio down the middle of the field. Jeff was the finisher, Scott controlled the midfield, and then in the back on defense was a young Keith Osik, who would become much better known for his career in Major League Baseball years later. It was the only year Osik, then a sophomore, spent in Rocky Point before attending Shoreham-Wading River where he excelled as a baseball player. Osik proved to be an invaluable member of the team, helping to keep the ball out the Eagles’ end and up where the Reh brothers could work their magic.

“He really solidified the defense,” Jeff said. “He’s a great athlete and he made everything come together.”

When the ’84 season began, the players knew they had a good team. They knew they should win a lot and they were coming off a successful season that saw them go 10-1-1 in league in ’83. But no one had thought so far ahead as a state championship. The Eagles had come up short in each of their previous three county title games since 1978 and had never won a county title. The players had no idea what other teams lurked around the state.

The Eagles cruised to the league championship with an 11-1-2 record and eventually found themselves pitted against John Glenn for the Class B county title. The Knights featured a powerhouse team and were about to begin a run of making nine straight county title games, seven of which they would win.

It didn’t start off that way, however, for John Glenn.

In a legendary county final game, the Eagles prevailed, 4-3, sparked by a pair of penalty kicks from Scott, whose third and final goal proved to be the game-winner.

“It was a feisty match to say the least,” Ellis said.

A year later when the Eagles were one win away from returning to the county finals, John Glenn was salivating at the chance for revenge. But the Eagles wound up losing 1-0 to Shoreham.

“We waited 365 days to get back at Rocky Point,” John Glenn’s goalkeeper Peter Quinn told Newsday in 1985. “We thought we should have won last year’s game.”

COURTESY PHOTO | The 1984 Rocky Point boys soccer team won the only state championship in program history.

The Eagles rode the momentum of their ’84 county championship all the way through the state tournament, where they won the first and only state title in program history. Scott was the Most Valuable Player of the state championship game.

When the season ended, Jeff has posted a team-leading 27 goals, the majority of which came on assists from his brother.

“Scott and Jeff definitely had the connection,” Ellis said. “Scott dominated the midfield and if he could get the ball to his brother, we were putting our hands up and cheering another goal.”

In Jeff’s senior season, the first year of ever playing a team sport without his brother, he put together one of the best individual seasons in county history. He scored 35 goals, which still stands today as tied for the fourth highest total in county history. In his career he finished with 72 goals, ranking him sixth all-time in Suffolk County. He did it with only playing 2+ seasons at forward. And his stats were never padded.

Once he scored three goals, unless the game was still competitive, Jeff took a seat. Ellis could remember only one game where Jeff scored more than three goals: a 5-4 win against Center Moriches. Jeff scored all five goals. Had he stayed in each game for its entirety, he likely would have threatened the single-season county record of 51 goals set by Angelo Lopez of William Floyd in 1972.

“Part of the thing was we always had good teams,” Ellis said. “We were winning and the other kids got to play, too.”

As both a junior and senior Scott was an All-County player, a captain and team Most Valuable Player.

For as much as they dominated in soccer, the brothers were an ever fiercer duo on the lacrosse field. Just as in soccer, Jeff was the scorer, the deadly finisher who never missed an opening. Scott was the set-up man, the team’s quarterback who controlled the midfield.

Scott could score goals in a hurry, but he was always known for his ability to find the smallest opening to feed an attacker for a goal.

Bowler credited Scott as being one of the first players to develop a split dodge, akin to almost a crossover dribble in basketball.

“He just had great footwork,” Bowler said. “What that enabled him to do from the midfield position was to beat his man and once he beat his man, someone had to slide. Once they slid, he just found open people wherever they may be. He was just uncanny in terms of his vision and knowing where to go with the ball.”

As a junior Scott was an All-County player, but still needed to develop his game to take that next step. A natural righty, he hadn’t fully developed a dominant left-hand yet, Bowler said. During the summer from his junior to senior year, Scott made it his mission to become the best lacrosse player he could be.

Bowler would see him during the fall after soccer practices bouncing a ball against the wall with his left hand.

By the time spring season came, defenders could no longer try to force him one way.

ROBERT O'ROURK FILE PHOTO | Jeff Reh finished his career at Adelphi with 175 goals.

His senior season would go down as one of the best in state history. He scored 53 goals with 99 assists for what was a state record at the time 152 points. He won the Ray Enners Award as the top player in Suffolk County, one of only two Rocky Point players to ever receive the award. He was named an All-American, the first athlete in the school’s history to be honored as such. He was also the school’s athlete of the year as both a junior and senior, the only student to be honored twice.

In Scott’s senior year he teamed with his brother and another talented attackman, Bob Henry, who went on to score 78 goals in his career at Stony Brook University.

Together they formed the most potent trio in Rocky Point lacrosse history. They combined for more than 100 points each, a feat Bowler can’t imagine happening again.

“We were pretty prolific offensively,” Bowler said. “Defensively … we were adequate.”

In Scott’s senior season in 1985, lacrosse had yet to be divided into classifications. So the Eagles had to deal with Ward Melville, the perennial champion, in the playoffs. Despite having the three lethal scorers, the Eagles didn’t have the depth to match up with the Patriots.

The following season, the state expanded lacrosse into classifications, which allowed the Eagles to compete against similar-sized schools for the county championship.

Jeff faced a difficult task in taking over a team for the first time without his brother around. And in lacrosse, he also lost the services of Henry. But the Eagles still had a talented goalie named Tony Guido, who went on to play at Yale.

“It was difficult because I was usually getting passes from [Scott],” Jeff said. “Now I had to kind of do both jobs.”

Jeff played in the midfield, was the face-off man, and never came off the field. Looking back, he can’t believe how he did it.

“I look at these kids now and I’m like, ‘How do they do it?’” Jeff said. “My father’s like, ‘Well, you used to do the same thing.’”
With Jeff dominating up and down the field, the Eagles won the Class B county title.

“People didn’t think we could do it without the other guy,” Jeff said. “It was really a sense of accomplishment.”

As Scott embarked on his college search during his senior year, Jeff always knew he would follow his brother. Scott had the opportunity to play either soccer or lacrosse in college and he flirted with the idea of playing both. The University of Maryland offered a scholarship for both sports.

Scott waited for the spring and his lacrosse season to unfold before making a decision.

“I decided to just go with lacrosse and I wanted to stay close to home,” Scott said.

Adelphi, then a Division I program, gave him an opportunity to play close enough where his parents and grandparents — who were a big part of he and Jeff’s life — could attend every game. Scott said Adelphi wanted him to play both sports. But with offseason lifting, fall ball and school, it was too much, he said.

When Jeff followed Scott to Adelphi for the 1987 season, they reconnected on the field just as they had for so many years before.

In each of their three seasons together, Jeff led Adelphi in goals and Scott led the team in assists. In 1989 Jeff scored a career-high 60 goals and Scott tallied a career-high 43 assists.

They called Jeff the “Moneyman.”

They both finished with 68 points, tying for second place in the all-time single season record at Adelphi during its Division I years. Jeff finished his career with a school record 210 points, which was broken two years later by Tom Aiello. Scott ranks third all-time in career points with 161.

Jeff’s 175 career goals is by far the most in school history for Division I. He ranks 10th all-time in NCAA history.

Scott Reh’s final game in an Adelphi uniform remains the one game that haunts him more than any other. Facing Maryland in the NCAA Tournament, Adelphi led 11-9 after Jeff Reh scored his team-high fourth goal with 9:28 left.

Maryland, aside from a brief one-goal lead early in the first half, had never led. But the Terps fought back with two goals and tied the game with 4:59 left. Scott said he remembers nearly scoring a goal late in the game, but the referee ruled he was in the crease.

Twenty-nine seconds into overtime, Maryland scored in sudden death.

“I’ve never felt worse,” Scott said after the game.

Twenty-two years later, the loss still stings. He’s never watched the tape.

“That was the year we were basically one of the best teams in the country,” he said. “I think we would have won the national championship. That was by far the worst defeat ever.”

Scott still had one game left, the prestigious North-South All-Star game. After an injury-free career, he broke his leg in the game.

He was drafted by the New York Saints of the former National Lacrosse League and received a tryout for the U.S. National team. The injury cost him a shot at pursuing both.

For Jeff, when his college career ended, he was ready to move on. He was getting married and starting a family. He’d continue coaching and even spent many years working with his former mentor, Al Ellis. Nowadays he spends most of his time enjoying watching his kids play the sport that he once dominated. His daughter Taylor was an All-County lacrosse player at Miller Place who now plays at Cortland. And just this week his son Jeff verbally committed to play for Stony Brook after his senior year at Miller Place.

Scott’s two sons, Justin and Troy, are both coming up through Rocky Point now and could see their first varsity action next spring in lacrosse.

In May, Scott and Jeff were formally inducted into the Suffolk Sports Hall of Fame.

Fittingly, they did it together.

joew@northshoresun.com

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