Of all the statistics and numbers that were floating around related to the Riverhead High School football team’s season-opening loss to North Babylon two weeks ago, perhaps the most stunning was the number of Blue Waves in uniform who had played in a varsity game before the season opener: one.
That’s it. One.
That one player was Brian Moulton.
Over the course of a four-minute conversation — most of it about Moulton — coach Leif Shay used the word “warrior” no less than six times to describe the senior.
Moulton does a lot for the Blue Waves. He plays linebacker (middle or outside), tight end, fullback and special teams.
“He doesn’t come off the field on any special teams,” Shay said. “He doesn’t come off the field for offense, defense, and if I try to take him off the field, he would argue with me. He’s the unquestioned leader of our team. He’s a warrior. You have nothing but respect for a kid like that.”
With injuries hitting some of Riverhead’s other top players, the Blue Waves are relying on Moulton for a lot.
“It feels pretty weird to me that I don’t have anybody else with me that was there with me on the field last year, but I wouldn’t have anybody else out there with me,” Moulton said. “This is my team.”
As expected, it has been a rough start to the season for Riverhead, which followed up a 43-0 loss to North Babylon with a 41-0 defeat to West Islip at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field on a steamy Saturday afternoon. No. 4 seed North Babylon and No. 2 West Islip are among the toughest teams in Suffolk County Division II.
The results are certainly no reflection on Moulton’s play. Moulton, the team’s leading returning tackler with 43 last year (including a sack), has 10 tackles through two games. He has two receptions for 46 yards, including a 34-yarder Saturday.
Following the first game, Moulton’s name was written on the hammer that is entrusted to the player who had the biggest hit in a game. “It has to be on film,” Shay said. “It can’t be a mystery or myth or anything like that.”
That player then has the distinction of carrying the hammer out to the field for the game, a first for Moulton on Saturday.
“This is the first time I’ve had this,” said Moulton, whose uniform was drenched following the game. “This is a great honor.”
Robbie Block, a senior running back and linebacker, has played ball with Moulton since they were 5. He recognizes his friend’s value to the team.
“Brian a key player on our team,” Block said. “He plays really hard, almost in on every tackle and he just [goes] hard. He plays with his heart, fire in his eyes.”
That’s the sort of thing coaches love. Shay said that even with younger teammates making mistakes around him, Moulton remains a positive influence.
“He’s got a great attitude,” Shay said. “He’s got a great head on his shoulders. He’s what Riverhead football is all about.”
Of course, that doesn’t mean losing sits well with Moulton. It doesn’t.
“It’s very frustrating to have to lose the game and they’re going in double digits and you’re not getting anything,” he said. “It’s hard to watch, to go 41-nothing, but as Shay’s been saying, it’s a rebuilding stage. I’ll do whatever I can to help rebuild this team to what it was.”
Spoken like a true warrior.
Photo caption: Brian Moulton is Riverhead’s “unquestioned leader,” said coach Leif Shay. (Credit: Grant Parpan)