BLUE WAVES 17, WOLVERINES 7
The memory was etched into the minds of every Riverhead player. It wasn’t just that Newfield beat the Blue Waves twice on their home field last year, including the playoffs, it was the way the Wolverines tried to embarrass them.
In the two games Newfield outscored Riverhead 86-19, a shellacking that fueled the Blue Waves throughout the offseason.
“That was fresh in our mind,” said Riverhead coach Leif Shay. “We wanted to show them how we can win with class.”
“We came out and had to show them who Riverhead is,” added linebacker Nick Ross.
In a defensive battle, the Blue Waves rode their hard-hitting defense to a 17-7 win on homecoming at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field before a packed house on a cool, sunny afternoon. The pivotal Division II matchup gave the Blue Waves (4-2) a much needed boost in the standings with Newfield entering the game with an identical 3-2 record and one spot behind them in the power rankings.
“We needed this game,” Shay said. “If we have any postseason aspirations, we really needed this game. And I think our kids sensed that, too.”
The Blue Waves expected a physical game from the Wolverines and they were up to the task on both ends of the ball. While the Wolverines did tally 322 yards of offense, Riverhead’s defense held strong when it needed to at the most critical times.
The Wolverines got the ball late in the fourth quarter trailing by a touchdown. After picking up one first down to advance to their own 43-yard line, the Blue Waves’ defense came through with a huge stop to force Newfield to turn the ball over on downs.
On fourth-and-3 from midfield, defensive end Joseph Napoli and linebacker Matt Hejmej converged on running back Terrell Perryman as he took a toss to the left.
Riverhead halfback Jeremiah Cheatom (196 yards on 21 carries) marched the Blue Waves down inside the 10, setting up Devrim Kuchuk’s 23-yard field goal to ice the game with 1:02 left.
It was the field goal of the season for Kuchuk, who had an earlier attempt blocked.
“I figured I had to give him another shot,” Shay said. “I’m happy for him that he did it on homecoming.”
In six games now the Blue Waves are giving up 12.8 points per game, a stark contrast to last season when opposing teams racked up 31.7 per game.
“We’re more controlled,” Ross said. “We do what we’re taught to do. We don’t do extra to make ourself look better. We play as a team and as a group.”
Newfield presents a unique challenge for a defense with the number of players the team can throw out there. Nine different players carried the ball against Riverhead and the Wolverines rotated two quarterbacks, both of whom could throw or run at times.
Perryman was the main carrier out of the backfield and rushed for 83 yards on 20 carries.
“The key defensively was our outside linebackers to stop their run,” Cheatom said. “We did a great job.”
Shay said the defense came down to preparing for three basic plays: toss, blast and trap.
“We tell them, everything else is just bells and whistles,” he said. “It doesn’t matter all these shifts. It’s toss, blast and trap.”
Linebacker Mike Von Bommel had a big game and delivered the hit of the game when he leveled a Newfield receiver on a third-and-long to force an incomplete pass late in the third quarter.
The Wolverines were forced to punt, setting up a Riverhead touchdown.
The Blue Waves took over on the Newfield 46. Cheatom got the carry on first down and found space in the middle by cutting back twice to elude defenders. He rushed the ball all the way into the end zone and with the extra point, the Blue Waves had a 14-0 lead in the final seconds of the third quarter.
“I made a mistake earlier in the game fumbling the ball, but I put it in the past and did an excellent job the next drive,” Cheatom said.
Riverhead got off to a slow start, tallying only seven yards of offense in the first quarter. But the offense got rolling in the second quarter, although it didn’t lead to any points. The Blue Waves got deep into Newfield territory twice in the quarter without converting.
To start the second half Riverhead received the ball and finally broke through with a 33-yard touchdown run from quarterback Ryan Bitzer. On fourth-and-3, Bitzer faked a handoff and ran a bootleg up the left sideline for the score to put Riverhead ahead 7-0.
The only score for Newfield came on a 13-play, 80-yard drive in the fourth quarter. Joe Feliciano scored on a three-yard run for the Newfield touchdown.
With all the hoopla surrounding homecoming, the week leading up to the game is often coaches’ nightmare.
“I hope people had a great time, but I’m glad it’s over,” Shay said.