BLUE WAVES 40, MARAUDERS 18
Shortly before kick-off Saturday afternoon, Riverhead offensive coordinator Steve Gevinski approached running back Jeremiah Cheatom. His message to Cheatom was simple: Prepare for a big day.
That the Blue Waves would rely on Cheatom, a senior and three-year varsity player, came as no surprise. But not even Cheatom could have envisioned just how often the coaches were about to put the ball in his hands.
In the end, Cheatom carried a career-high 41 times against Bay Shore. He accounted for more than 65 percent of Riverhead’s plays from scrimmage.
And he more than delivered, racking up an astounding 263 yards with three touchdowns, more than enough to lift the Blue Waves to a crucial 40-18 Division II victory at Bay Shore High School.
“That was the most I ever had in my whole high school career,” Cheatom said. “It didn’t even feel like it, honestly. I came back to the sideline and they said 41 carries. I didn’t even realize.”
After attacking Central Islip last week through the air with an array of quick passes and screens, the Blue Waves shifted their game plan this week to an old-fashioned ground and pound.
“We thought [Bay Shore] was a very good finesse team,” said Riverhead coach Leif Shay. “They had a lot of athletes. But they like to play in open space. They don’t like to play bare-knuckle football. We decided we were going to control time of possession and give a heavy dose of Jeremiah.”
Cheatom was consistent all throughout, churning out at least four yards on half his carries. He had seven runs for double-digit yardage, the longest a 40-yard scamper in the second half that he nearly broke for a touchdown.
His first touchdown came just three minutes into the game on a 20-yard run. The play was set up by a Bay Shore miscue. After Riverhead forced a three-and-out, the Marauders lined up to punt. But on a low snap, the punter went down on a knee to pick the ball up and the official ruled him down. In high school football, a player is automatically ruled down when a knee hits, regardless of whether an opponent touches him.
The 3-1 Blue Waves caught a big break and started their first drive on the Bay Shore 28.
“Those are the type of plays you got to capitalize on,” Shay said. “If they’re going to give you a short field like that, we feel like we have an offense to take advantage of that. That was a big play early on I think to set the momentum that we’re here to play.”
Riverhead took a 21-6 lead into halftime. Cheatom’s second touchdown with 20 seconds left in the second quarter came on a two-yard run on fourth down.
In the third quarter, the Blue Waves put together a 16-play, 76-yard drive that ate up nearly seven minutes of the clock. Cheatom punched it in from a yard out to make it 27-6 Riverhead and effectively ended Bay Shore’s hopes of a victory.
“Bay Shore was a good team,” Cheatom said. “We just did our job and did what we had to do.”
Riverhead’s starting running back on opening day while Cheatom was injured, Ryun Moore got only one carry. He made the most of it, scoring a 40-yard touchdown for the Blue Waves’ final touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Moore did see significant time on defense.
The victory was a big one for Riverhead because Bay Shore was seeded No. 2 in the preseason. Victories against high-seeded teams are huge in the power rankings.
“Now we’re playing on house money,” Shay said. “We got a lot of points out of this game. If we win two of the next three, we’ll be a top-four team.”
That would guarantee Riverhead a home playoff game in the first round of the playoffs.
While Cheatom got the headlines Saturday, quarterback Cody Smith had an effective game when asked to throw the ball. He completed 8 of 12 passes for 55 yards. Five of the passes went to Jaron Greenidge, who also caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Smith early in the second quarter. The score put Riverhead ahead for good at 14-6.
Riverhead’s defense held its own against one of the more athletic teams in the division. Bay Shore’s top rusher, Simeon Eato, gained 65 yards on the ground. He scored on a 23-yard pass play from quarterback Ryan Mazzie for Bay Shore’s final score.
Jaquan Moore’s touchdown from 11-yards out tied the game at 6 early in the second quarter.
Riverhead returns to action next Saturday for a 4 p.m. game at Smithtown West.
Note: Radio clips courtesy of WRIV 1390