12/29/13 7:00am
12/29/2013 7:00 AM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Matt Crohan, the only non-senior starter for Riverhead on Senior Day, did not allow an earned run and gave up two hits in six innings for his first career win.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Blue Waves baseball pitcher Matt Crohan.

At times during the 2013 season, it seemed almost unfair for any batter who stepped up to plate against Riverhead’s towering left-hander, Matt Crohan.

For two months, he mowed through one lineup after another. He posted a streak of 44 straight scoreless innings and threw a pair of no-hitters. His magnificent season earned him the Carl Yastrzemski Award as the top baseball player in Suffolk County.

He became the first Riverhead player to ever win the award. He was also the League IV Most Valuable Player and was Newsday’s Long Island Player of the Year.

Crohan now attends Winthrop University, where he’ll continue his baseball career this spring.

Editor’s note: We’re counting down the top 10 sports stories of 2013. Check back every day until Jan. 1 to follow along.

12/28/13 7:00am
12/28/2013 7:00 AM
GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Riverhead senior Markim Austin rises for one-handed dunk Tuesday that put the Blue Waves ahead by seven in the fourth quarter against Smithtown West.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Riverhead senior Markim Austin rises for one-handed dunk that put the Blue Waves ahead by seven in the fourth quarter against Smithtown West.

The Riverhead boys basketball team entered the 2012-13 season with lofty expectations as an experienced core of players returned. And the Blue Waves didn’t disappoint, posting a 12-2 record in League III and clinching the program’s first league title since 1997.

It was a thrilling season throughout, highlighted by a 72-71 victory over Smithtown West early in February that guaranteed the Blue Waves at least a share of the league title.

Riverhead got 20 points from Markim Austin in the win in front of a near-capacity crowd at Riverhead High School. The Blue Waves’ season ended on a bitter note with a loss to Longwood in the first round of the playoffs, but the season nevertheless was one to remember.

Editor’s note: We’re counting down the top 10 sports stories of 2013. Check back every day until Jan. 1 to follow along.

12/27/13 7:00am
12/27/2013 7:00 AM
ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Riverhead senior Dan Normoyle.

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Riverhead senior Dan Normoyle.

For a track and field team to have one elite pole vaulter is a luxury. To have two? Even better. But three?

That’s just hard to imagine. But in 2013, the Riverhead Blue Waves had one of the most formidable pole vaulting trios any team could ever hope for.

Dan Normoyle, Jonah Spaeth and Charles Villa were often competing against each other at meets to determine the champion.

And at any given meet, it could be any of the vaulters with a top mark. At the state championship for the indoor season, Normoyle cleared 14 feet 6 inches and Spaeth cleared 14.

In the outdoor season, Normoyle and Villa qualified for the state championship. Normoyle again cleared 14-6 and Villa cleared 14. To qualify for states, Normoyle cleared 15 feet as the Blue Waves finished 1-2-3.

Editor’s note: We’re counting down the top 10 sports stories of 2013. Check back every day until Jan. 1 to follow along.

12/25/13 7:00am
12/25/2013 7:00 AM
GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Shanice Allen leapt into the record book, passing Felicia Hobson as Riverhead's all-time leading scorer.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Shanice Allen leapt into the record book, passing Felicia Hobson as Riverhead’s all-time leading scorer.

During the Riverhead girls basketball team’s spirited run to the state semifinals in 2012, Shanice Allen eclipsed the 1,000-point career milestone during a county championship win. She reached the mark while still just a junior. It made it evident that early the next season, Allen would become the school’s all-time scoring leader.

And Allen earned that honor on Jan. 3, scoring a career-high 36 points in a win over Centereach to pass Felicia Hobson. In the game, Allen brought her career total to 1,208 points. She finished the season as the Blue Waves’ top scorer and was an all-state and all-Long Island selection. Allen now plays for Pace University.

Editor’s note: We’re counting down the top 10 sports stories of 2013. Check back every day until Jan. 1 to follow along.

10/19/13 5:59pm
10/19/2013 5:59 PM
RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Michael Hubbard, seated, led the Class of 2014's float at the Riverhead homecoming parade Saturday.

RACHEL YOUNG PHOTO | Michael Hubbard, seated, helped lead the Class of 2014’s float at the Riverhead homecoming parade Saturday.

East Main Street was infused with the spirit of Dr. Seuss at the Riverhead homecoming parade Saturday afternoon.

Riverhead High School students presided over Dr. Seuss-themed floats during the festivities, which began at 12:30 p.m. on East Avenue and East Main Street.

Leading the Class of 2014’s “The Lorax” float in a wheelchair decorated with blue and white garlands was 17-year-old Michael Hubbard, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in 2011.

Michael, who suffered third-degree burns over 40 percent of his body when a gel candle exploded in his backyard, was wheeled by a classmate as fellow members of the senior class walked beside him during the parade.

Other Dr. Seuss-themed floats included the Class of 2015’s “The Cat in the Hat,” the Class of 2016’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and the Class of 2017’s “The Foot Book.”

The freshman class proved to be the big winners in the float competition, the results of which were announced during the football game. The Riverhead football team defeated Walt Whitman, 28-0, to cap the homecoming festivities.

Numerous clubs and sports teams were represented in the parade, including the Riverhead High School marching band, Riverhead PAL football and the Riverhead High School cheerleading squad.

After a walk down Main Street, parade participants marched west toward Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field to watch the Blue Waves improve to 5-1 in Division II.

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12/23/12 5:00pm
12/23/2012 5:00 PM
BILL LANDON PHOTO | Pat Kelly has been calling Riverhead football games for 25 years. The voice of the Blue Waves was at West Islip for last Tuesday's boys' basketball game.

BILL LANDON PHOTO | Pat Kelly has been calling Riverhead football games for 25 years. The voice of the Blue Waves was at West Islip for last Tuesday’s boys’ basketball game.

Bruce Tria knew he needed to broadcast high school sports for WRIV to live up to its billing as Riverhead’s “hometown station.”

After all, nothing says hometown like high school sports.

At first, he decided to take matters into his own hands. He and former morning deejay Lou Koulias traveled to Smithtown West High School one afternoon in the mid-1980s to deliver the very first broadcast of Riverhead Blue Waves football on 1390 AM.

“It was a total train wreck,” Mr. Tria recalled in an interview last week.

If he was going to do this right, he needed to seek out someone else who could do it. It was not an easy find. He was looking for someone who knew sports, could keep up with the tempo of the games and who had a voice people could stand to listen to for more than two hours at a time.

Pat Kelly knew he was all those things, he just needed someone to give him the chance to prove it. Decades later, Mr. Kelly, who earlier this month wrapped up his 25th season broadcasting Riverhead football games, is now known simply as the voice of the Blue Waves, but he’s done it all these years with almost no prior experience as a sports broadcaster.

While attending college at SUNY/Plattsburgh, Mr. Kelly recalls attending a college hockey game armed with a tape recorder. As he watched the action, he held the microphone to his mouth and replaced the names of the college players on the ice with the NHL players he knew so well.

“Esposito brings the puck to center ice, gives to Bucyk …”

He then went back to his dorm room and listened to his pseudo broadcast. Not too shabby, he thought.

After graduating, Mr. Kelly began a career in science — he currently works as a chemist for the Suffolk County Water Authority — and any dreams of becoming a broadcaster went on hold. It wasn’t until one day in 1986, when he was in attendance at a local softball game at Stotzky Park, that Mr. Kelly got his first chance to call a game on the air.

He had been moonlighting as an umpire in the league, but there were no games for him to call that day. He was hanging out with his late wife, Marisa, the official scorekeeper, when Hawk Woodson, a former WRIV sportscaster, approached him about broadcasting the game on the now defunct WPTZ radio station.

“He just stuck the mic in my face and said, ‘Here, you know these teams,’ ” Mr. Kelly recalls.

Later, after Mr. Woodson got word that Mr. Tria was looking for a broadcaster for high school sports games, he recommended Mr. Kelly.

“Pat had no real experience,” Mr. Tria said. “He was just a natural. He just always had it.”

That’s a statement that’s long echoed through Riverhead.

After a recent playoff game, Blue Waves football coach Leif Shay said of Mr. Kelly, “I don’t know how he does it. I’m a football coach and I couldn’t do that.”

Shooting the breeze with reporters before Riverhead football’s Long Island Championship game Dec. 1, Newsday high school sports historian Andy Slawson called Mr. Kelly “the best there is.”

In his first season of broadcasting games, Mr. Kelly was the No. 2 man behind legendary Riverhead sports figure Bob Burns. He’d sprinkle in color while Mr. Burns called out the play-by-play.

It wasn’t until Mr. Burns went on vacation one week that Mr. Kelly got his first shot at calling games on his own for WRIV. It’s been a love affair ever since.

“We’ve lasted longer together than most marriages,” Mr. Tria joked.

In his time as the voice of the Blue Waves, Mr. Kelly, 61, says he’s seen it all.

Among his favorite stories of football games past, Mr. Kelly, who has also been calling boys basketball games since 1990, recalls the tales of two games against Miller Place.

The story of the first game actually begins the night before the players took the field. As Mr. Kelly arrived at Miller Place High School to set up his equipment in the press box, he noticed a fire truck leaving the parking lot. When he walked the field, he saw it was soaking wet.

“I thought, ‘What do they have a drainage problem, I don’t recall it raining recently,’” he said.

Though he says the former Miller Place coach insists “to this day” it isn’t true, Mr. Kelly believes the team had the local fire department wet the field to neutralize Riverhead’s scrambling quarterback. The Waves won anyway, he says, 6-3.

The other old yarn Mr. Kelly likes to tell of a Riverhead-Miller Place game was a Halloween showdown where all sorts of bizarre occurrences happened. A shanked punt, a 12-men on the field penalty and a failed fourth-and-long when the Miller Place coaches thought it was third down all helped Riverhead to a victory that day.

“Spooky stuff was happening that Halloween,” Mr. Kelly said.

The broadcaster has become such a fixture at Riverhead sporting events — Mr. Tria estimates Mr. Kelly’s missed just six football games in 25 years — many folks consider him an honorary member of the teams.

He even wears a Riverhead football sweatshirt with his last name on the back when he calls football games from the chilly press box above Coach McKillop Field.

He freely admits that when he calls the games, he’s rooting for Riverhead to win.

“I definitely do,” he said. “But I’m also quick to point it out when Riverhead benefits from a bad call by the refs.”

He also says he’s questioned coaching decisions on the air over the years. There’s no doubt, though, that Mr. Kelly feels a part of the Riverhead football family, and at no time was that more important to him than in the years after his wife of 25 years died and he became a single father to his two daughters, Jennifer and Kimberly, and his young son, Michael.

Marisa Kelly was diagnosed with cancer in October 1998, and she died the following April, just two months after that year’s boys basketball season ended.

“I don’t know how I would have gotten through those winter months without being able to get away for a bit to do the games,” he recalled. “My son was just seven years old when she passed. I had to be the dad and the mom for a lot of years. It was very therapeutic to be able to go on the air.”

Mr. Tria said there was never a time where he thought Mr. Kelly might hang up his headphones in the years after his wife passed.

“He made it very clear that wasn’t going to happen,” Mr. Tria said.

In fact, it might be another 25 years before Mr. Kelly actually does call it quits. Now relocated to Manorville and remarried to his wife of 16 months, Joan Kelly, he says only moving out of state would prevent him from calling Blue Waves games.

And he points to two longtime sports figures as the best reason why he shouldn’t retire.

“Bear Bryant retired from coaching football and he was dead within a year,” Mr. Kelly said. “[Former Mets broadcaster] Bob Murphy was a similar story. When you give up something you love this much, it kills you … I’ll give it up when they pour dirt on me.”

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11/04/12 9:29am

Riverhead schools superintendent Nancy Carney said district schools will be open on Election Day, as well as Monday, “due to the three day loss of instructional time” during and after Hurricane Sandy last week.

Unlike many schools on Long Island, Riverhead schools were open this past Thursday and Friday as well, though administrators excused children who couldn’t make it due to the circumstances. Attendance was scarce, one teacher told the News-Review, with as few as five or six kids in classes.

Students are to report to school as normal on Election Day, Tuesday, Ms. Carney said.

Superintendent’s conferences had been scheduled for Tuesday but were cancelled.

Although information on Election Day classes out of Shoreham-Wading River wasn’t immediately available, the district website indicates superintendent conferences scheduled for that day were rescheduled as well.

A SWR school board meeting scheduled for Tuesday has also been re-scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 8 at Prodell Middle School, according to the website.

Ms. Carney is encouraging faculty members to car pool to work to preserve gas, as lines were still long at pumps as of Sunday and relatively few stations were open.

Click here for an updated sports schedule for Riverhead, Shoreham-Wading River and McGann-Mercy High School.

09/07/12 8:00am
09/07/2012 8:00 AM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead junior Jeremiah Cheatom will take over as the starting halfback for the top-seeded Blue Waves this season.

In their three losses last season, including in the first round of the playoffs against Newfield, the Riverhead Blue Waves surrendered an average of 42 points per game. Even with a versatile offense capable of putting up big numbers, it was far too many points for the team to overcome.

To try to take the next step this season, in which Riverhead enters as the No. 1 seed in Division II, the team got back to the basics on defense.

“We simplified,” said Riverhead coach Leif Shay. “We felt we had good athletes out there and we didn’t need to run complex coverages. We want to be simple and let our athletes cover the ground they can cover.”

The Blue Waves’ defense got overwhelmed last season against a stronger, bigger Newfield team in the running game. The Wolverines ran in seven touchdowns against the Blue Waves in their playoff win.

The Blue Waves return a more experienced group on the defensive line this year, the first step toward clogging up those running lanes.

Senior Joseph Napoli, one of three captains, will start at defensive end.

“He was a star for us last year,” Shay said.

Seniors Kyle McCabe and Kyle Harris will plug up the middle of the defensive line along with a newcomer, junior Jonathan Lee.

Shay said Lee can squat as much as 600 pounds.

The Blue Waves came into training camp with a strong core of linebackers all competing for time. Senior Nick Ross and junior Mike Von Bommel lead the group. Senior Vinny Brodeur will also see some time at linebacker along with junior Ryan Harkin, who’s been slowed by an ankle injury.

In the secondary the Blue Waves will rely on three guys who will play on both sides of the ball. Seniors Quinn Funn and Jeff Pittman will play cornerback and junior Jaron Greenidge will start at free safety.

“The key for us is our defense,” Shay said after the team’s first scrimmage last week. “We have to be locked down and can’t allow those big plays.”

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | An improved defense will be key for the Blue Waves to advance farther into the playoffs this season.

While the defense struggled at times last year, all too often it got put in a difficult position because of turnovers. If the Blue Waves are to take that next step this season, limiting turnovers will be a huge key.

It’s something third-year quarterback Ryan Bitzer is well aware of as he begins his senior season under center for Riverhead.

“Last year we had a bunch of turnovers against the top three teams,” Bitzer said. “Especially me. I have to protect the ball better. That’s what experience comes with. I got to learn to sometimes protect the ball, run it or throw it away. Turnovers is a big thing for us. We got to keep those down.”

Bitzer will lead an offense that has the potential to be equally as explosive through the air as on the ground. While the Blue Waves lost their leading rusher from last season in Charles Bartlett, they do return a pair of strong backs. Junior Jeremiah Cheatom got a lot of action last season and will start as the featured back. Shay described Cheatom as “a grinder,” the kind of player who can pick up tough yards and can also break a big run.

Sophomore R.J. Foster, who saw some time on varsity at the end of last season, will also have a prominent role in the running game. A speedy, shifty runner, Foster will also return kicks.

“He’s very elusive,” Bitzer said. “He sees the field very well, too. He’s definitely improved from last year. He’s learning he’s got to hit the holes right. I’m looking forward to seeing what he does in the future.”

Shay said he expected the offense to be even more balanced than it was last year, aided by a more experienced offensive line.

Senior Stephen Powers returns at center along with Harris at right tackle. McCabe will play left guard and senior Eric Hulse at right guard. Ross is the only newcomer to the offensive line and will play at left tackle in addition to his defensive duties.

“They got a full season of experience under their belt,” Shay said. “They’re bigger, faster, stronger.”

Bitzer said the linemen spent the entire offseason working in the weight room.

“They were lifting weights, doing what they have to do to get better, working with each other, talking to each other after practice,” he said. “Just really communicating.”

In the passing game Bitzer will have several targets, led by returning receivers Pittman and Funn. Both players had big seasons last year and can present matchup problems for opposing defenses. Pittman has great speed, which he showed off in track and field as one of the top sprinters in the county.

Senior receiver Brian Funfgeld and tight end Andrew Kinard are both threats in the passing game as well.

“Not everybody has two great corners,” Shay said. “If you have one good corner, you can only take away one guy. That gives us an advantage from the outside-in. You’re going to have to defend the entire field.”

The Blue Waves play a fast-tempo offense, which they hope keeps the opposing defense on its heels. It also leads to plenty of big-play potential.

“We push teams to the limit with our tempo,” Bitzer said. “They get worn out pretty quickly, which enables us to throw some big points on the board.”

In special teams the Blue Waves have senior Devrim Kuckuk as a kicker. A soccer player, Kuckuk will be a two-sport athlete in the fall.

“He’s got a real strong leg,” Shay said. “We haven’t had that in a long time.”

Shay said Kuckuk didn’t realize that the rules allowed him to play both sports.

The Blue Waves open the season Saturday at home against West Babylon. The Blue Waves were 5-0 last year going into their game at West Babylon when the Eagles put an emphatic end to the winning streak with a 41-6 win. Michael Richardson, the do-it-all quarterback/receiver who torched the Blue Waves last year, has graduated. West Babylon does return quarterback Clifton Melhado, who started the season last year before an injury opened the door for Richardson.

“They beat us up pretty well,” Bitzer said. “So we’re looking for a little revenge. It’ll be a good game. West Bab is always a good team.”

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