BLUE WAVES 28, LIONS 25
An overcast, gray day got uglier in the second half when rain began to fall, lightly at first, and then with growing intensity, making for slick conditions and a slippery football. That was fitting enough because Riverhead was turning in a performance that was at once disturbing and ugly. But what the Blue Waves lacked in points for artistry, they made up for in drama and excitement.
The Blue Waves, defending Suffolk County Division II champions, dodged a bullet in their season opener on Saturday, narrowly averting an upset loss to West Islip in the final seconds. Steven Reid III pulled in an 18-yard touchdown reception with 15.1 seconds left to play, allowing the Blue Waves to escape with a 28-25 result in their favor at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field in Riverhead.
Call it Riverhead magic.
On a third-and-10 play, Reid broke off his post pattern when he saw quarterback Kenny Simco being pressured, and he headed toward a pylon where he caught the pass in the rain. It was the senior’s first career varsity touchdown. Simco’s pass to Mark Andrejack for the 2-point conversion completed the scoring.
After West Islip fielded the ensuing squib kick, its quarterback, Joe Rushton, went back to pass, found no one open and ran 10 yards before being pulled down by Andrejack on the game’s final play.
Riverhead is seeded No. 1 in Division II. West Islip is seeded seventh.
The first three Riverhead touchdowns came on runs by Ryun Moore. Despite having a problem with his left calf throughout the game, the junior galloped for 139 yards on 33 carries. He also threw a 2-point conversion pass to Blake Carrara, giving the Blue Waves a 14-3 lead by halftime.
But the game turned in the third quarter, starting with the kickoff by West Islip’s Bryan Woodburn. Reid had trouble retrieving the ball, finally picking it up at the 2-yard line. With West Islip players closing in, he ran to his left, then tried to backtrack to his right before he was caught by Billy Hellem, who flung him down in the end zone for a safety.
After West Islip received the resulting punt, it completed a 10-play drive with Rushton (7 of 12, 89 yards) rolling to his right and floating a 2-yard touchdown pass to Alex Barbera. Woodburn’s extra point made it a 2-point game at 14-12.
The Lions then went in front on their next series when Stadler Thompson received an option lateral and darted 11 yards for the score.
The lead then changed hands on fourth-quarter touchdown runs by Moore and Rushton. Rushton’s touchdown came after West Islip called timeout as it was lining up to attempt a field goal. The Lions had second thoughts about how they would handle the fourth-down play, and Rushton took the ball in from 1 yard on a quarterback sneak, making the score 25-20 with 7:06 to go.
The game came down to Riverhead’s final nine-play drive that was kept alive by Simco’s 8-yard run on fourth down. After two incompletions, he found Reid for the game-winning touchdown that absolved Riverhead’s sins.
Riverhead coach Leif Shay was unhappy with how his team had played. Alluding to mistakes and the 10 penalties that had cost the Blue Waves 85 yards, he said the team had a lot of work to do.