The message coach Leif Shay had for his Riverhead High School football players following Saturday’s game was the same one he has conveyed throughout the season.
“I’m very proud of them,” he said. “For everything they have going against them, they come to practice and work hard every day.”
That doesn’t mean this season hasn’t been filled with adversity, misfortune and injuries for the Blue Waves. A clear pattern continued Saturday when Riverhead was shut out once again, 42-0, at Bellport High School. This latest result left Riverhead staring at an 0-4 record halfway through the season. The Blue Waves have yet to score a point. They sit in 11th place in Suffolk County Division II, with the division’s only other two winless teams, Smithtown West (0-4) and Copiague (0-5), under them.
In Riverhead’s previous games it lost 24-0 to Smithtown East, 41-0 to West Islip and 43-0 to North Babylon.
“It ain’t easy, I tell you that much, but I’m proud of my kids,” Shay said. “They don’t make any excuses. They go out there and they try as hard as they can. They came up short.”
It didn’t help matters that one of Riverhead’s top players, senior lineman John Anderson, has yet to play a down this season because of an elbow injury. Also out with injuries are senior lineman Mike Woolley (back), junior lineman/linebacker Ben Mearkle (concussion) and sophomore tailback Lawrence Bishop (sprained ankle).
Jason Davis and Kyle Kelly continue to rotate in and out at quarterback.
“The problem again for us is we don’t have that dynamic athlete that is going to break big plays,” said Shay, whose team will play its homecoming game Saturday against Copiague.
Referring to third-place Bellport (5-0), he said, “We just don’t have the team speed to catch up to some of those guys. We played hard. We made some mental errors that hurt us. There are times when we play real well and there are times when our inexperience shows up.”
“We continue to work just as hard as we would have if we were a championship team. Eventually things are going to turn our way. Right now we’re not getting any breaks. Right now it’s just an exercise in perseverance more than anything.”
Mercy has troubles, too
On the other side of town in Riverhead, things aren’t any better. Bishop McGann-Mercy is also struggling at 0-4.
“It must be something in the water,” said Mercy coach Jeff Doroski.
Inexperience and small numbers have combined to make life difficult for the Monarchs. That inexperience has materialized into penalties, missed blocks and the like.
“It really shows out there,” said Doroski.
In Saturday’s home game against Hampton Bays, for example. A 6-yard touchdown run by Ryan Razzano, followed by Razzano’s two-point pass to Matt Raynor, tied the score at 8-8 for Mercy in the second quarter. Liam Egan then executed a successful onside kick, giving Mercy the ball again.
“Then we take a penalty and start going backwards,” said Doroski.
Mercy lost, 22-8, leaving the Monarchs 13th in 14-team Division IV.
“Some of our young guys are making progress, getting better, but it’s a slower process than we thought it would be,” said Doroski.
Doroski said he likes what he has seen from Egan, Raynor, wide receiver/defensive back Max Beyrodt and wide receiver/outside linebacker John Urrico.
Is there a win on the horizon?
Possibly. Mercy’s next three games are against teams it has done well against recently — Southampton/Ross (1-3), Wyandanch (3-1) and East Hampton/Bridgehampton (0-4).
“We’re going to keep plugging along,” said Doroski, who applauded his players’ efforts. “I can’t say enough about the way they play and the way they handle themselves.”
Photo caption: Riverhead senior lineman John Anderson has yet to play a down this season because of an elbow injury. (Credit: Bob Liepa, file)