10/27/12 8:58pm

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Jeremiah Cheatom of Riverhead ran for 100 yards on 19 carries against Walt Whitman.


Preseason rankings make a difference.

With the Suffolk County Division II football playoff seedings to be decided by the end of the day, the Riverhead Blue Waves delivered a home-field clinching knockout blow to the Walt Whitman Wildcats with a 42-8 victory on Saturday afternoon at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field.

With the win, the top-seeded Blue Waves (6-2) have the third-best record in Division II behind West Islip (8-0) and East Islip (7-1), but secured the No. 2 seed in the playoffs. Riverhead will face Walt Whitman (4-4) in the first round. Whitman finished tied in power rankings with West Babylon and received the higher seed.

Riverhead’s seniors, accompanied by their parents, were honored before the game for the hard work and effort they have put forth in their time with the program. Coach Leif Shay, in a pregame speech, urged his seniors to “play with no regrets.”

Quarterback Ryan Bitzer elaborated on it afterwards, saying: “You don’t want to go out losing. In 15 years, you want to talk about how you won your senior game.”

Bitzer made it known to potential playoff opponents that Riverhead can pass the ball with accuracy. Completing all eight of his passing attempts, he passed for 193 yards.

“I feel like I’m back to my old self,” he said. “It comes easy when everything is going right.”

Bitzer was involved in five touchdowns, including four passing. Three of those ended up in the hands of Quinn Funn, who amassed 163 yards on five catches.

“I wanted to have a breakout game because it was my senior game,” said Funn.

Funn, utilizing his juke move to full effect, made defenders look silly, scoring on touchdowns catches of 25, 34 and 50 yards. He almost had a fourth touchdown as he dove toward the end zone following a 44-yard gain that ended up being spotted at the 1 yard line.

The 50-yard touchdown catch involved some in-the-moment communication between Funn and Bitzer. On a play that was supposed to be just a simple hitch, Bitzer made a hand motion, directing Funn to go deep. Because the route sucked in the cornerback, Funn made a dart at the end zone, eventually catching a clean, spiraled pass without a defender in sight.

The offensive line allowed the Blue Waves total freedom to do what they pleased. The linemen opened up gaping holes for Jeremiah Cheatom (100 yards on 19 carries) to run through and they didn’t surrender a sack.

As much as the offense was clicking, it is hard to look past the effort made by the Blue Waves defense. In addition to leading the team with eight tackles, junior Jaron Greenidge scored a defensive touchdown. Walt Whitman halfback Nykwon Harrison had trouble securing a pitch, and before he got the bobbling under control, he was leveled by middle linebacker Mike Van Bommel and the ball popped free. Greenidge then picked up the ball before running it back 63 yards for a touchdown.

All eight of Walt Whitman’s points came in the first quarter. “It didn’t feel like they only scored eight points, they were really tough,” said Van Bommel.

The Blue Waves came out in a 5-3 defense as opposed to the standard 4-4 they usually go with. They added an extra defensive lineman and took away one linebacker in an attempt to stop the run.

“It gave us the ability to stop the dive more efficiently,” said outside linebacker Matt Hejmej.

10/19/12 11:31pm

BILL LANDON PHOTO | Riverhead halfback Jeremiah Cheatom ran for two touchdowns in Friday night’s victory at Smithtown West.

Grit, determination and resilience propelled Riverhead into the victory column Friday night as the Blue Waves earned a 23-16 victory over the Smithtown West Bulls.

With Smithtown West beating previously unbeaten East Islip last week, Riverhead (5-2) arrived in town hoping to acquire precious power ranking points to secure home field for the first round of the Division II playoffs.

Riverhead’s non-existent passing game, costly penalties, and untimely defensive letdowns let the Bulls (3-4) hang around, but the physical, yet crafty running of junior Jeremiah Cheatom put the game away.

Cheatom finished the game with a career-high 262 yards on 18 carries while scoring two touchdowns, including the decisive score in the fourth quarter.

“In my state of mind, I wasn’t going down,” Cheatom said.

Cheatom tantalized the Bulls defense, but refused to take all the credit.

“My offensive line does an excellent job and I am so proud of them,” he said. “I give all the credit to them. All I have to do is run hard.”

Cheatom said his running came down to “finding the right cutbacks and taking full advantage.”

Midway through the third quarter, the Blue Waves saw their 14-point halftime lead shrink to just one following two unanswered Smithtown touchdowns. On the extra point attempt to tie the game, Riverhead senior Jeffrey Pittman came off the edge untouched to block the kick, preserving Riverhead’s lead at one. It was the second straight game Pittman blocked a kick. He swatted down a ball on a short field goal attempt against Newfield last week.

Following Smithtown’s touchdown, the first play on offense for the Blue Waves was halted by a false start, one of nine penalties on the night for the Blue Waves.

The next play Cheatom ran a zone to the right. Putting his head down into a huddle of defenders, a second or two passed and he somehow emerged out of the crowd and sprinted off into the distance. Evading defenders and hugging the sideline he gained 37 yards. He would later score his second touchdown on a 33-yard run to make the score 23-16 (the extra point was missed) and give the Blue Waves a little breathing room.

“I cut it in, read my blocks, and bounced it outside,” Cheatom said.

Following an empty offensive possession for both teams, the game was up to the defense. The Blue Waves had already intercepted a pass (Pittman), sacked the quarterback twice (Nick Ross, Matt Hejmej) and forced three fumbles throughout the game.

With three minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Bulls started a drive at their 15 yard-line following an effective punt by Anthony Chiaramonte. Smithtown West committed a holding penalty trying to hold back the Blue Waves’ pass rush and that placed the Bulls on the 4-yard line. Faced with a third-and-20, Smithtown West successfully ran a screen play gaining 29 yards. But the magic ended there as the drive stalled a few plays later with an interception by cornerback Quinn Funn.

Linebackers Mike Van Bommel and Hejmej led the defense with eight tackles each.

Cheatom put the Blue Waves ahead in the first quarter with a 47-yard touchdown run. Riverhead added 10 more points in the second quarter. Quarterback Ryan Bitzer threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Funn and kicker Devrim Kucuk connected on a 38-yard field goal that put the Blue Waves ahead 17-3 before halftime. It was his second field goal in as many games.

The Blue Waves close out the regular season next Saturday at home against Walt Whitman.