Coming off an intoxicating performance in which they passed the football for almost 400 yards, it was as if the Riverhead Blue Waves wanted to prove a couple of points. Firstly, they wanted to serve a reminder that they can run the ball, too (just ask Charles Bartlett and Jeremiah Cheatom). They also let it be known that they aren’t afraid to try an onside kick — even three times in a row.
Bartlett ran for a career-high four touchdowns — all in the first half — on a brisk Friday night as Riverhead ran its record to 2-0 in Suffolk County Division II with a 45-13 thumping of the Hauppauge Eagles. Cheatom ran for another Riverhead touchdown as well.
“No surprise,” Quinn Funn, who played wide receiver and cornerback for Riverhead, said afterward. “I knew how the game was going to come out. If we come out hard, that’s going to be like that every game.”
The running game was a prominent feature. In their season-opening upset of the East Islip Redmen, the Blue Waves had 29 running plays against 38 pass plays. On Friday night they ran the ball 51 times and threw 23 passes.
The results were impressive. Bartlett and Cheatom both surpassed 100 yards as the Blue Waves totaled 278 rushing yards. Bartlett, a senior, consumed 132 yards on 19 carries, and Cheatom, a sophomore, collected 101 yards from 23 runs.
It was all part of a fine-tuned offense that produced 27 first downs and 459 yards in total offense. Riverhead put up 513 yards worth of offense against East Islip.
“We wanted to show teams that we are [multi-faceted], and can run and pass,” said Funn.
More running was part of the plan.
“We want to be a little more balanced in our attack, and we look at each game plan differently and try to take advantage of areas where they’re weaker,” Riverhead Coach Leif Shay said. “Yeah, we want to be a little more balanced. We have a dynamic back in Charles and a young guy in Jeremiah, so, we want to get those guys involved as well.”
Riverhead quarterback Ryan Bitzer, who passed for a career-high 395 yards against East Islip, looked sharp again, throwing his fifth touchdown pass of the year, a 31-yarder to Mike Hinchy for the game’s only points in the first quarter. Bitzer went 14 of 22 for 181 yards and an interception.
That combination of offensive threats, operating out of a no-huddle offense that allowed Riverhead to control the tempo, gave Hauppauge (1-1) a lot to think about.
“They could pretty much offensively do what they wanted, and they had a good mix,” Hauppauge Coach Joe Patrovich said. “They do a very good job. They stretch you. First of all, they make you pack it in because of the two tight ends or that look. So you got to pack it in because they’re a very good zone team and a very good inside running team. And then when you pack it in, they have threats on the perimeter that they can throw it to. I just think they’re very impressive in what they do and how they scheme offensively.”
Funn scooped up a fumble and ran the ball 34 yards to the end zone for an apparent touchdown. It was nullified by a personal foul, though.
No matter, Riverhead kept moving the ball on that series until a four-yard run by Bitzer for his second touchdown of the season. Jeffrey Pittman’s point-after kick stretched Riverhead’s lead to 38-0 by the time the third quarter was 4 minutes 40 seconds old.
Kurt Carter replaced Bitzer at quarterback later in the third quarter. The first and only pass he threw was picked off by Dominic Confredo and returned 54 yards for a touchdown with 3:16 left in the third quarter.
The Hauppauge fans who came out for their team’s home opener had something else to cheer about when C. J. Ciserano made a couple of nice moves that helped him to a 25-yard touchdown run 4:24 into the fourth quarter.
Pittman executed three straight onside kicks in the first half, the second of which was successfully recovered by teammate Anthony Chiaramonte, setting up a 12-yard scoring run by Bartlett.
Bartlett, a back with a reputation for being able to get the tough yards, also scored on a pair of two-yard runs and a five-yarder.
“I felt great about how we can pass the ball and also how we can run the ball,” said Bartlett, who already has five touchdowns to his credit this young season. “Also, our line did fantastic, gave me lanes to run through and, again, tough yards [are] really what won the game for us. Our mental toughness won the game for us.”
Hauppauge, a No. 11 seed that has only one starter on either side of the ball back from last year, was outgunned by No. 6 Riverhead.
“They’re what we thought they were,” Patrovich said. “I don’t know if they’re what the league thought they were coming in because their seed is not that high, but I think they’re a very talented team.”
Two games into the season, Bartlett has noticed a difference from last year’s Riverhead team. “Our mentality is win at all costs,” he said. “We didn’t have that last year and we have it this year.”
Shay said: “This is a team with a lot of heart, a team with a lot of pride. We’re not going to sit and rest on our laurels. We’re going to keep on pressing and try to win as many games as we can.”
Be it through the air or on the ground.