09/28/13 5:01pm
09/28/2013 5:01 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead senior Mike Van Bommel caught five passes in Saturday’s win over Central Islip.

BLUE WAVES 48, MUSKETEERS 8

The beauty of the Riverhead offense is its diversity. Some games, the Blue Waves may pound the ball on the ground with halfbacks Jeremiah Cheatom and Ryun Moore. Other games, they can put the ball in the arm of quarterback Cody Smith.

Against Central Islip Saturday afternoon, it was Smith’s turn to shine.

Behind an assortment of screens and quick passes into the flats, Smith ignited a torrid offensive game for the Blue Waves in a rout of Central Islip, 48-8, at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field Saturday.

Smith completed his first 8 passes of the game and by the end of the first half had tallied 205 passing yards. He finished the first half 13 of 15 with two touchdown passes. Junior Ken Simco took over the QB duties in the second half.

Riverhead (2-1 Division II) scored touchdowns on all but one possession in the first half, taking a 34-0 lead into the locker room.

After giving up 50 points last week to East Islip, the Riverhead defense bounced back with a superb effort. The Blue Waves bottled up Central Islip quarterback LJ Harriott , who was a duel threat on the ground and through the air.

Cheatom scored a touchdown on a 7-yard run early in the second quarter and finished with 42 yards on 7 carries. He did not play in the second half as he iced his shoulder. The injury did not appear serious.

Smith completed passes to five different receivers in the first half alone. Tight end Mike Van Bommel caught five passes and hauled in a touchdown reception in the first quarter that made it 21-0 Riverhead.

Wide receiver Dan Czelatka caught three passes, including a 37-yard touchdown on a screen pass that made it 14-0. Czelatka also intercepted a pass and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown in the second half.

The Blue Waves appeared to have found an answer to their kicking game as well. Junior Dylan Pace attempted the extra point kicks for Riverhead and after missing his first, he bounced back to convert four of the next five. Moore scored on a two-point conversion run on the Blue Waves’ second touchdown.

The only Central Islip touchdown came late in the fourth quarter after the Blue Waves fumbled the ball deep in their own territory. Harriott scored on a 7-yard run.

The Blue Waves return to action next Saturday at Bay Shore.

joew@timesreview.com

12/01/12 11:40am
12/01/2012 11:40 AM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead halfback Jeremiah Cheatom and quarterback Ryan Bitzer (10) celebrate during the first half of Saturday’s Long Island championship game.

One half, 24 minutes, stood in Riverhead’s way of a Class II Long Island championship. The Blue Waves led 16-7 against Garden City on the back of an epic rushing performance from junior Jeremiah Cheatom, who tallied 201 yards in the opening half at Stony Brook University’s LaValle Stadium.

So often the Long Island championship game has been a nightmare setting for the Trojans, who were 4-9 all-time heading into Saturday.

But on this overcast, chilly afternoon, the Trojans flipped the script in the second half to run off three unanswered touchdowns and win 29-16 in front of a stunned crowd that featured far more blue than maroon.

Riverhead took a 16-7 lead into halftime after a career-long 36-yard field goal by Devrim Kucuk with 1:16 left.

But the Trojans defense bottled up Riverhead’s running game in the second half, loading the box with defenders and daring the Blue Waves to throw on a windy afternoon. The Blue Waves’ passing game — so efficient all season — couldn’t get anything going and the offense completely stalled in the second half.

The 29 points allowed was a season-high for Riverhead. The Blue Waves’ 16 points was their lowest in a game since Oct. 6, which was also their last loss. It was the first time Riverhead was shut out in the second half this season.

Garden City scored on a 24-yard touchdown pass play with 9:02 left in the third quarter when quarterback Brett Stewart hit 6-foot-5 Ed Blatz (7 receptions, 141 yards, 2 touchdowns). The Blue Waves went three-and-out on their first three possessions of the second half and the Trojans finally took the lead when Stewart ran in a bootleg 3 yards for a score with :22.3 left in the third.

Stewart finished the game with 27 carries for 135 yards and two rushing TDs. He was 13-of-23 for 198 yards and two touchdowns through the air.

He ran in another 3-yard touchdown midway through the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach as the Trojans went ahead 29-16.

Garden City, which also defeated Riverhead in the 2003 LIC, closed out the season 11-1. Riverhead, playing in its third LIC, finished the season 9-3.

The Blue Waves, after using their aerial attack in the county championship to defeat North Babylon, opened the game relying nearly entirely on the legs of Cheatom. He responded with a superb first half, surpassing 200 yards for the fourth time this season.

But in the second half the Trojans lined up five linemen and kept the linebackers close to the line to make it difficult for the Blue Waves to keep their running attack going.

Cheatom finished the game with 234 yards on 33 carries. He caught two passes for 12 yards.

Riverhead went ahead 6-0 in the final seconds of the first quarter on a six-yard pass from quarterback Ryan Bitzer to Jaron Greenidge. Garden City answered with a 28-yard touchdown from Stewart to Blatz.

Cheatom scored on a 1-yard run to complete a 77-yard drive with 6:44 left in the first half.

The Blue Waves never found the end zone again.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead’s Jaron Greenidge scored a touchdown in the first half against Garden City Saturday.

11/25/12 7:00am
11/25/2012 7:00 AM

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Riverhead receiver Quinn Funn makes a leaping grab against North Babylon’s Jake Conner in Week 3.

After Riverhead’s 42-28 win over North Babylon Sept. 22 in Week 3, Bulldogs coach Terry Manning said his team was still trying to find itself.

As the Bulldogs prepare to play Riverhead Sunday night in the Suffolk County Division II championship, it appears they’ve found what they were searching for.

The Blue Waves (8-2) will face their longtime rivals at 6:30 p.m. at Stony Brook’s LaValle Stadium to try to win their first county title since 2008. To do so, they must get past a North Babylon team that has been lighting up the scoreboard.

[Check back for live coverage tonight]

The Bulldogs, seeded 5th coming into the playoffs, have averaged 45.5 points in their last four games, including their first two playoff victories. North Babylon stunned No. 3 seed East Islip last weekend in a shootout, winning 52-41 on the road.

Under Manning, who’s coached 22 years at North Babylon, the Bulldogs have long been known as a run-first team. But as they showed in their victory over the Redmen, they can effectively pass the ball when they need to.

The Bulldogs (7-3) rarely line up with traditional receivers spread across the field. Nearly all their plays against East Islip began with a jumbo formation with two or three backs in close space in the backfield. The Redmen lined up six defenders across to try to negate the running game, but the Bulldogs continually sprung a receiver deep to counter the defense.

The Bulldogs would often send their tight ends, lined up at either end, out on pass routes. The Redmen defenders struggled to identify and pick up the receivers coming off the line, which allowed North Babylon to convert big plays through the air.

North Babylon’s first touchdown of the game came on a play-action pass from quarterback Jake Conner to tight end David Sonnenberg. Conner faked a handoff, rolled to his right as Sonnenberg — who lined up at the left end of the line — ran straight ahead past every defender to get wide open for a 37-yard touchdown.

The Bulldogs implement a lot of motion in the backfield, which adds to further confuse the defense. After striking through the air in the first half against East Islip, it only opened the running game even more in the second half.

Melijah Purvis takes the majority of handoffs for North Babylon and he’s surpassed 1,000 yards on the ground this season. Conner is a threat to run at quarterback and the Bulldogs have several other runners capable of carrying the ball.

The Bulldogs ran a quick reverse a few times against East Islip where Conner handed off to a back coming in motion. Purvis, lined up off the left edge, then got the ball snuck into his hands as he darted the opposite direction with the defense leaning the wrong way.

The Blue Waves will have their hands full, although their defense has been up to the challenge so far this season. Riverhead has allowed more than two touchdowns in a game only twice this season, against East Islip (24-14 loss) and against the Bulldogs (42-28 win). Most of the points Riverhead gave up in the game against North Babylon came late after the Blue Waves blew the game open.

Riverhead’s offense has been firing as well behind halfback Jeremiah Cheatom, quarterback Ryan Bitzer and receiver Quinn Funn. The Blue Waves have scored at least 30 points in their last three games. For the season the Blue Waves have averaged 30.1 points per game.

It should add up to plenty of fireworks Sunday night.

joew@timesreview.com

11/19/12 10:16am
11/19/2012 10:16 AM

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Riverhead receiver Quinn Funn hauls in a pass against North Babylon in the Blue Waves’ regular season victory.

The Riverhead Blue Waves will play North Babylon in the Division II county championship at 6:30 p.m. Sunday, Section XI announced Monday morning.

The game was tentatively scheduled for noon Sunday as part of a doubleheader with the Division IV championship. But after the Stony Brook University football team received at an-large bid to the playoffs, earning a home playoff game Saturday, the high school schedule had to be reworked.

There will now be three games Sunday beginning with the Division I championship at 11 a.m. between Sachem East and William Floyd. The Division III championship between Westhampton and Sayville will be 3 p.m. The Division IV championship between Mount Sinai and Babylon has been moved to Monday at 6 p.m.

Admission to each game is $6.

Riverhead won 30-14 against West Babylon Saturday to advance to the finals.

The Division II Long Island championship game will be noon Dec. 1 at Stony Brook.

joew@timesreview.com

11/17/12 12:45pm
11/17/2012 12:45 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Rivheread halfback Jeremiah Cheatom carries the ball against West Babylon in Week 1.

No. 1 Riverhead (7-2) vs. No. 4 West Babylon (5-4)

Division II Semifinals

Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field

The consensus on the field after Riverhead’s quarterfinal playoff victory over Walt Whitman last weekend was that the Blue Waves would be playing East Islip today in the semifinals.

Only West Babylon, the No. 8 seed going into the playoffs, had other plans. West Babylon stunned No. 1 seeded and previously unbeaten West Islip, shaking up the rest of the Division II playoffs.

Teams are reseeded after the first round, so Riverhead jumped up to the No. 1 spot for the semifinals. Instead of facing East Islip, the Blue Waves will now face the Eagles, a team the Blue Waves throttled in Week 1. Riverhead lost to East Islip in the regular season.

While the Blue Waves won handily in Week 1, the Eagles were dealing with several injuries at the time and have come a long way since. And they still have a dynamic quarterback in Clifton Melhado, who rushed for 129 yards against the Blue Waves this season.

The winner of today’s game advances to the county finals next weekend against either East Islip or North Babylon. That game is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 25 at noon at Stony Brook University.

To follow all the action from today’s game, click on the live blog below as former Blue Wave Michael Hejmej provides all the updates:

09/15/12 8:04pm
09/15/2012 8:04 PM

BILL LANDON PHOTO | Riverhead wide receiver Quinn Funn hauls in one of his nine catches Saturday against West Islip.

LIONS 16, BLUE WAVES 13

In a flash, a game that seemed destined for overtime came down to one kick.

The Riverhead Blue Waves, after dodging a bullet on a near 99-yard drive from West Islip, held the ball at their own 40-yard line on fourth down and less than a minute to play Saturday afternoon at West Islip High School.

Senior Nick Ross, who had pinned the Lions on their own 1 on his previous punt, lined up in the backfield. All afternoon Ross, whose main duty is middle linebacker, had ample time to catch the ball, take a second and punt.

But this time the Lions came in a hurry. West Islip senior James Murray lined up on the right side and surged across the line and straight toward Ross. He batted the ball as Ross attempted to kick it, sending it soaring directly up into the air and bouncing back onto the field and eventually out of bounds.

Three plays later, West Islip kicker Zach Hageman lined up for the first field goal in his varsity career, a 36-yarder to potentially win the game.

The 5-10 junior calmly drilled the ball between the uprights, lifting West Islip to a 16-13 victory and handing Riverhead its first Division II loss of the season.

“It was like slow motion as it went through the upright,” said West Islip coach Steve Mileti.

The Blue Waves (1-1) had one last chance on the ensuing kickoff, but only 4 seconds remained and the clock ran out as Jeremiah Cheatom tried to go the distance.

Special teams proved to be the difference in a game Riverhead dominated for much of the first half until turnovers started to pile up.

Riverhead coughed the ball up twice on punt returns and quarterback Ryan Bitzer was picked off twice.

“We hurt ourselves in this game,” said Riverhead coach Leif Shay. “Penalties, turnovers, things like that are going to kill you against West Islip.”

The first two Riverhead turnovers led directly to 13 West Islip points, which came in the final three and a half minutes of the second quarter.

BILL LANDON PHOTO | West Islip halfback Dan Johnson provided most of the offense for the Lions by carrying the ball 25 times.

The Lions (2-0) took a 13-6 lead into halftime before the Blue Waves got back on track in the third quarter. After Bitzer threw 24 passes in the first half, the Blue Waves opened the second half by relying on the legs of Cheatom.

“We felt we had an advantage,” Shay said. “They were tiring out and we were able to pound the ball on them a little bit. Those are things will look at on the film and get better at.”

Cheatom carried the ball 26 times for 145 yards.

Riverhead tied the game with 4:52 left in the third quarter when Bitzer threw a quick pass on fourth-and-2 to Quinn Funn on the left side. Funn raced up the left sideline for a 27-yard touchdown.

Funn had a big day with nine catches for 120 yards. Bitzer had to rely more on Funn after Jeff Pittmann went down early in the first quarter with an ankle injury. Pittmann, who starts on both ends of the field, did not return.

“I think he’ll be fine, but he just couldn’t go today,” Shay said.

Losing Pittmann hurt on special teams as well as he was unavailable to return punts.

Riverhead quickly got the ball back after tying the game and appeared on the verge of retaking the lead. But on second-and-7 from the Lions’ 34-yard line, Bitzer (18-33, 191 yards) threw over the middle to tight end Vincent Brodeur and had the ball deflect off his hands. The ball floated in the air for Joe Barcia to intercept.

After a Riverhead drive stalled near midfield midway through the fourth quarter, the Blue Waves punted and pinned West Islip on the 1-yard line. But behind the running of Dan Johnson (157 yards on 25 carries) the Lions marched deep into Riverhead territory.

The Lions momentarily appeared to capitalize on a 37-yard pass play for a touchdown to complete the 99-yard drive, but an ineligible receiver penalty negated the score. The Blue Waves’ defense buckled down and forced the Lions’ backward.

West Islip went for it on fourth-and-20 from the 30 but couldn’t convert.

The Lions only had 24 seconds to work with after getting the ball back following the blocked punt. They ran the ball twice, using their final two timeouts, to set up the field goal attempt.

“Credit to our kicker,” Mileti said. “To be put in a situation like that in your first varsity kick to win a game against a team like Riverhead, that’s football. What a life experience and memory for that kid.”

West Islip had its own injury problems to deal with when quarterback Sam Ilario had to leave the game after a head injury. Mileti said afterward he didn’t think it was as serious as a concussion.

AJ Ilchert slid over to quarterback to carry the Lions home.

Riverhead, kicking into the wind, missed two long field goals in the first half. The second came at the end of a 17-play drive that ate up a good chunk of the first quarter. Devrim Kuckuk tried a 38-yard field goal that missed. He missed on his first attempt from 43 yards.

“There’s a lot of good football teams in this division,” Shay said. “West Islip, give them credit. They executed well.”

Junior Jaron Greenidge caught five passes for Riverhead. Bitzer scored the first Riverhead touchdown with an 18-yard run.

Riverhead travels to North Babylon at 2 p.m. next Saturday.

joew@timesreview.com

09/15/12 1:42pm

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead junior Jeremiah Cheatom races for a score in last week’s blowout win over West Babylon.

Riverhead (1-0) vs. West Islip (1-0)

West Islip High School

2 p.m. kickoff

Coming off an impressive 42-0 Week 1 victory at home against West Babylon, the Riverhead Blue Waves return to the field this afternoon for their first road game against a talented West Islip team.

West Islip opened the season last week with a 28-16 victory over Walt Whitman. West Islip scored all its points in the first half.

The Lions came into the season as the preseason No. 4 seed in Division II. The Blue Waves were seeded No. 1.

The Blue Waves will have to contend with West Islip quarterback Sam Ilario, who in in his first varsity start last week scored three touchdowns (two rushing, one passing). Joel Aleman also ran for a touchdown.

Riverhead and West Islip did not meet last season as the Lions played in Division I.

Follow below for a live blog of all the action from Saturday’s game. Former Riverhead football player and member of the 2008 Rutgers Trophy championship team, Michael Hejmej will provide all the updates. Hejmej is a junior at Stony Brook University who is following the Blue Waves this season with a blog.

08/22/12 10:00am
08/22/2012 10:00 AM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | The Riverhead football team began practicing in pads for the first time Tuesday morning. The Blue Waves will begin the 2012 season as the preseason No. 1 seed.

Tuesday wasn’t quite judgment day for the Riverhead football team. But after four days of practicing without pads, where everybody can look like stars, it was the first day where coaches could get a good perspective of which kids are ready to play.

The Blue Waves rolled out their first hard-hitting practice Tuesday morning as their preseason training schedule, which has included two-a-days, begins to ratchet up.

“That’s when you find out the kids who have been working all summer and the kids who wanted to sit home all summer,” said Riverhead coach Leif Shay. “The kids that watch the Scooby-Doo marathons end up getting hurt a little bit.”

Football season officially kicked off last Thursday with teams across Suffolk County hosting their first practices in the morning. The Blue Waves, after an up-and-down season last year, return a large core that has them primed to be one of the contenders in Division II.

Shay said about 90 kids are in the program this year between the varsity and JV. Practices have been crisp so far, Shay said, and the players have come into camp focused.

It doesn’t hurt that the Blue Waves are the preseason No. 1 seed in the division. Shay didn’t want to put too much stock into that, saying that most of the division seems to be down a bit compared to last year. The Blue Waves have more players returning than most teams, so that led to the high ranking, Shay said.

Of course, preseason seedings can become obsolete very quickly. Last season the Blue Waves opened the season by winning at East Islip, the preseason No. 1. The Blue Waves won their next four games, including a last-second win over a Half Hollow Hills West team that figured to be one of the favorites going into the season.

But near the end of the season, it was Newfield and West Babylon that emerged as the top contenders. Newfield soundly beat Riverhead in the opening round of the playoffs as the No. 5 seed and went on to win the Long Island Championship.

While practices just started for the 2012 season, players have been training since December. There’s been weight-lifting four nights a week in addition to an added speed training workout that the players went through during the offseason.

“We did a lot more things with explosive conditioning,” Shay said.

The team brought in a speed coach, Jeff Cioliono, to work with the players and help them add more explosiveness. Shay said they’re already a quicker and faster team than last season.

That should benefit the defense, which was a weak point last year allowing 31.6 points per game. Shay said they’re more athletic on the defensive side this year. One of the key battles in practice so far has been at the linebacker position, where the Blue Waves have several players vying for time.

“There’s going to be a couple odd men out that are very good football players,” Shay said.

Nick Ross and Ryan Harkin are two linebackers along with Mike Van Bommel, a starter from last year, and Vinny Brodeur.

“You have four guys for two spots and they’re battling it out,” Shay said.

The coaching staff for Riverhead remains largely intact this year. One addition has been John Zilnicki, a 2005 Riverhead graduate who played baseball at SUNY/Cortland.

Zilnicki will work primarily as a JV assistant while also helping out with the varsity.

The Blue Waves will play their first scrimmage Aug. 29. That will feature five teams rotating against each other at Riverhead.

“We’re just trying to make sure we’re fundamentally sound,” Shay said. “We’re working on our basic defense and offensive packages.”

The Blue Waves will play a game scrimmage at home Aug. 31 against Sachem East in preparation for their season opener Sept. 8 against West Babylon.

joew@timesreview.com