05/13/13 11:17pm
05/13/2013 11:17 PM
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Denise Brunskill of Riverhead took first place in the 100-meter high hurdles in 17.9 seconds.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Denise Brunskill of Riverhead took first place in the 100-meter high hurdles in 17.9 seconds.

Riverhead’s girls track and field team sealed the League IV championship in its final dual meet of the season on Monday, an 84-56 victory at East Islip.

Rachel Conti led the way for the Blue Waves, posting wins in both the 1,500- and 3,000-meter races. Her times were 5 minutes 18 seconds in the 1,500 and 12:26 in the 3,000. Another Riverheader, Denise Brunskill, finished first in the 100-meter high hurdles in 17.9 seconds.

Undefeated Riverhead completed its dual-meet season with a 6-0 record. East Islip is 4-2.

10/06/12 8:00pm
10/06/2012 8:00 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead cornerback Jeff Pittman tries to break up the pass play in front of East Islip receiver Hugens Tranquille.


The stat line alone hardly jumps off the page: 99 rushing yards on 31 carries for an average of 3.2 yards per carry.

East Islip senior halfback Andre Deegan, at 5-foot-7 and 165 pounds, may not be among the flashiest of runners on Long Island. A methodical grinder, Deegan never broke a run for double-digit yards against Riverhead Saturday afternoon at East Islip High School.

Slowly but surely, Deegan helped wear down the Blue Waves’ defense, softening the pass coverage to allow East Islip to strike through the air.

And when it was over, Deegan had a pair of touchdowns, both on 1-yard runs, to propel the Redmen past Riverhead 24-14 in a game the Blue Waves never led.

“They controlled the clock,” said Riverhead coach Leif Shay. “They controlled the game and we weren’t able to answer.”

East Islip remains unbeaten at 5-0 as does West Islip, which knocked off Copiague Saturday. The loss, dropping Riverhead to 3-2, all but eliminates the Blue Waves’ chances of finishing the regular season atop Division II.

With another tough game looming next weekend against Newfield, the focus now for Riverhead is trying to secure a playoff spot and possibly a top-four seed for a home game in the first round.

East Islip and West Islip do not play each other, so both could run the table and finish the regular season undefeated.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead linebackers Ryan Harkin (57) and Nick Ross try to bring down the East Islip runner.

The Redmen controlled the line of scrimmage against Riverhead, allowing quarterback Casey Nolan plenty of time to sit in the pocket and find receivers. He got off to a rough start by misfiring on his first four passes. But he connected on nine of his next 15, including a 49-yard touchdown pass to Mike Lee that gave East Islip the first score of the game in the second quarter.

For Riverhead, the running game never got on track as the Redmen were able to bottle up halfback Jeremiah Cheatom. He had three big runs for 20+ plus yards, including a 24-yard touchdown run that made it 21-14 early in the fourth quarter. The three big runs accounted for the majority of Cheatom’s 112 rushing yards.

“I thought we were going to be able to move the ball a little bit better,” Shay said. “I don’t know that Jeremiah read the zone very well at times.”

Shay said the Redmen didn’t do anything defensively that they hadn’t seen on film.

“They were physical up front,” he said. “They did a nice job of bend but not break.”

After Cheatom’s touchdown cut East Islip’s lead to seven, the Riverhead defense forced East Islip to punt on its next possession after picking up one first down.

The Blue Waves got the ball back at their own 20 with 9:02 left, needing to drive the length of the field, something they hadn’t done all game. Both of Riverhead’s touchdowns came on a short field.

The Blue Waves picked up a pair of first downs to get near midfield, but Paul Dondero halted any momentum by picking off a pass from quarterback Ryan Bitzer, one of four interceptions on the day (the first came on a long pass at the end of the first half that wasn’t returned).

“The linebackers were really bailing out to take away some of the routes,” Shay said. “He needs to be a little more patient.”

Junior Jaron Greenidge led the Blue Waves with six catches for 64 yards. He caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Bitzer on the Blue Waves’ first drive of the third quarter to make it a 14-7 game.

Bitzer’s top target this season, Quinn Funn, was never able to break free for big plays. He did finish with four catches for 61 yards.

“Obviously they were keying on him,” Shay said. “They were bracketing coverage on him.”

Shay said they need to be more patient and look for more receivers in the passing game.

Senior Jeff Pittman had the most game action since his Week 2 ankle injury. But he wasn’t a big factor on offense with three catches for 32 yards.

Cheatom was the only back to carry the ball for Riverhead. Bitzer scrambled three times to account for the only other rushing yards.

East Islip made it a two-possession game with a 22-yard field goal with under five minutes to play in the fourth. Riverhead turned it over again on its next possession when Steve Walsh picked off Bitzer.

“We’ve got to get smarter as a football team and stop making mental errors,” Shay said. “Execute drives and be patient. The key to beating us right now is to just be patient and smart and we’ll make a mistake.”

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10/06/12 4:45pm

BILL LANDON PHOTO | Riverhead receiver Quinn Funn hauls in a pass during last week’s win against Hills West.

Riverhead (3-1) vs. East Islip (4-0)

Division II

East Islip High School

The Riverhead Blue Waves returned to form last week with a 42-9 victory over Hills West to finish the midway point of the regular season 3-1 in Division II. Despite the win, Riverhead dropped one spot in the power rankings and enter Week 5 third with 117.7.

The Blue Waves will face one of the two teams ahead of them in the standings this afternoon as they travel to East Islip. The Redmen are 4-0 and in second place behind West Islip.

East Islip has gotten off to an impressive start to the season with blowouts in all four victories. The Redmen are averaging 42 points per game behind a balanced rushing attack and the arm of quarterback Casey Nolan. East Islip’s defense has been equally as impressive by allowing only 4.75 points per game. The Redmen have two shutouts so far.

To follow this afternoon’s game from East Islip High School, click on the live blog below. Former Riverhead Blue Wave and Stony Brook University student Michael Hejmej will provide updates on all the action.

09/10/11 4:01pm
09/10/2011 4:01 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Quinn Funn of Riverhead tried to come down with the ball during his team's season-opening upset of East Islip.

For all of the passing that Ryan Bitzer did, it was his awareness and his legs that ultimately won the day, proving the doubters wrong and giving the Riverhead Blue Waves a major dose of confidence as the high school football season got under way.

The situation the Riverhead quarterback and his teammates faced was desperate. All the good work they had done in the first 46 minutes on Saturday was at stake, as well as the outcome of their season-opening game against the East Islip Redmen at Sal Ciampi Field at Boomer Esiason Stadium in Islip Terrace.

With East Islip leading, 35-32, Bitzer engineered a drive that started at Riverhead’s 35-yard line and reached the East Islip 4, thanks in part to a critical 25-yard pass to Mike Hinchy and back-to-back Redmen penalties. On an earlier play, Bitzer and his coaches noticed a gap in the East Islip defense, and Bitzer was instructed to exploit it if he saw it again. The play call on first-and-goal from the 4 was for a handoff to Charles Bartlett, but Bartlett never got the ball. As Bitzer stepped to the line of scrimmage, he saw an opening, decided to keep the ball himself, and powered forward for a quarterback sneak that took him over the goalline with 1 minute 38 seconds left in the game. A bad snap foiled the extra-point attempt, leaving Riverhead’s lead at 38-35.

“That was actually really scary that last drive,” Hinchy said. “We just had to execute every play flawlessly.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead's Kurt Carter (No. 16) managed to keep this pass out of an East Islip receiver's hands.

East Islip quarterback Pete Hanabergh then completed 3 of 4 passes before spiking the ball to stop the clock with 57.0 seconds to go, and the ball on the Riverhead 20. On the next play, though, Jeff Pittman picked off a Hanabergh pass at the 1. The sixth-seeded Blue Waves ran two plays and then celebrated. They had toppled East Islip, the top-seeded team in Suffolk County Division II, and they did it largely through their passing.

“I give our kids credit,” Riverhead Coach Leif Shay said. “I told them I was proud of them, not because we won the game. I was proud of them really just because they refused to quit, and that’s the spirit of Riverhead football.”

With Bitzer’s strong right arm and a cadre of sure-handed receivers, the Blue Waves put on an exceptional passing display. Bitzer’s passing was sharp, precise, surgical. And there was plenty of it.

Bitzer’s numbers spoke for themselves. They were staggering: a career-high 395 passing yards, 27 completions from 38 attempts, four touchdown passes and no interceptions.

“He’s a good fantasy player,” Shay joked with reporters afterward. “I hope somebody picked him up.”

Bitzer called it the best game of his career “by far.” Five receivers were on the other end of those passes, including Hinchy (11 receptions, 161 yards) and Reggie Moore (nine receptions, 137 yards), who had two touchdown catches each.

“There were unbelievable,” Bitzer said. “They were catching everything I threw at them.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead quarterback Ryan Bitzer used his legs to pick up some yards on this play, but he had a superb passing day.

But it really was Bitzer’s day, an impressive one to say the least for the junior and second-year starter. He made it almost look easy at times, as if he was playing catch with his receivers.

“Certainly, it puts him up there with some of the better quarterbacks in the conference,” Shay said. “We always knew he was good. … He’s so calm under pressure, and his poise is his greatest attribute. He doesn’t let things rattle him at all.”

That quality sure came in handy on Saturday.

East Islip, which trailed by 32-14 after Bitzer found Moore for a 30-yard scoring connection (and Pittman’s extra point) 4:28 into the third quarter, excited the home crowd with a near comeback. Hanabergh, who didn’t have a bad game himself, going 16 of 34 for 287 yards, found Kyle Moller, who shook a defender and raced 46 yards for a go-ahead touchdown with 2:36 to go in the game. It was Hanabergh’s second touchdown pass of the game (his first was a 30-yarder to Joe Modica earlier in the quarter). Tyler Rigo ran in a two-point conversion, making it 35-32 East Islip.

Overshadowed by Bitzer’s play were exceptional performances by Hanabergh and Rigo, who ran for three touchdowns and 106 yards. Moller was Hanabergh’s favorite receiver, making five grabs for 122 yards.

It was an offensive explosion, with both teams combining for 42 first downs and 956 yards in total offense.

The game’s first points came courtesy of Bartlett, who found his way around the left side from 10 yards out for a 6-0 Riverhead lead on the game’s opening series.

But six of those first 10 plays by Riverhead were passes. With East Islip holding a size advantage on the line, Riverhead felt compelled to take the aerial route.

“We knew we could throw the ball, but I didn’t really expect this,” said Hinchy, whose two touchdowns helped Riverhead to a 19-7 lead in the first quarter.

Shay said he would have to review the game film before giving Bitzer a grade on his performance, but regardless, it sounded like he is going to keep his young quarterback’s feet on the ground.

“Certainly, there’s no such thing as a perfect game,” Shay said. “We expect big things out of Ryan, but we’re not going to let him think he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, either. He’s going to continue to work hard and develop.”

That could be a chilling thought for the rest of the division.

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02/15/11 8:08pm
02/15/2011 8:08 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Jalyn Brown of Riverhead split East Islip's Jackie Nicifiro, left, and Elizabeth Hand to hoist a shot.

So, what is Senior Night like without any seniors?

The Riverhead High School girls basketball team would likely tell you it isn’t bad at all. That is because of what the Blue Waves did on Tuesday night, the final night of the regular season.

Normally, it would have been Senior Night, but not this year. No pregame ceremony was necessary. No speeches had to be given. No flowers needed to be handed out to graduating players because there aren’t any. The Blue Waves do not have a single senior among them.

“It saved me some money,” quipped Riverhead Coach Dave Spinella.

It has been this way for the Blue Waves before. Every other year since 2007, the team has not had any seniors.

That doesn’t seem to have hampered this season’s squad, which is headed to the playoffs for the sixth year in a row. Spinella said his team might have earned itself a home playoff game with its 49-30 defeat of the East Islip Redmen on Tuesday at Riverhead High School. Riverhead will have a Suffolk County Class AA Tournament game on Monday. It will learn who its opponent will be when the playoff brackets are released on Thursday.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Naysha Trent is a sophomore on a playoff-bound Riverhead team that has no seniors.

“We’ll be ready,” said Spinella, who used crutches to move around after spraining his ankle while playing basketball over the weekend. “It’s like any other game. You just got to prepare. We’ll find out who it is, we’ll get the scoop on them, and then we’ll prepare for them. But we got to do what we do. We can’t worry about preparing for other teams. Other teams have to prepare for us, too.”

And that takes a lot, as the Redmen will attest.

Riverhead will bring a 13-5 record into the playoffs. The Blue Waves were 11-3 in League III, good enough for second place. (“We really thought that we should have won the league, but things happen,” said sophomore guard Shaniece Allen.)

But they will take more than that into the postseason. They also feature athleticism, speed and a hectoring defense that can give a team fits.

It is that defense that Spinella cited, without a second of hesitation, when asked what makes his team special. “When we’re on, we’re very tough to score on,” he said.

On Tuesday night the Blue Waves were on. They shot out to a 10-2 lead and were hardly troubled as they coasted to the win. East Islip (5-11, 5-9) did not reach double figures until a three-point shot from the corner by Paige Meehan 1 minute 9 seconds into the third quarter made the score 25-11.

“It’s our athleticism and our talent put together,” said Allen.

That proved to be too much for East Islip to handle. The Redmen were held to 26.5-percent shooting from the field and were outrebounded by 41-26.

Jalyn Brown recorded 15 points and five assists while Allen added 12 points for Riverhead. Ten of Allen’s points came in the first half. Melodee Riley grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds to go with seven points.

East Islip received seven points apiece from Laura Hill and Meehan.

After the game, East Islip Coach Mike Petre high-fived his players, whose season came to an end. The Redmen will not be in the playoffs, falling two wins short.

“I wish we had a little more time together to iron out some of the kinks,” he said. “We had trouble all year putting the ball in the basket.”

Petre noted that Riverhead is a strong team.

“The main thing is they have multiple ballhandlers,” he said. “So, no matter what kind of defense you run or what pressure [you put on them], their second, third and fourth ballhandlers are good. And they also have some shooters who can space the floor, and they have some live legs to keep some balls alive, and they’re active.”

In addition to standouts like Allen, Brown and Riley, Riverhead also has the welcomed addition of Kayla Nazario, a transfer from Virginia who Spinella said can play inside or outside.

“We’re young, but we learn every day,” said Riley.

While the Blue Waves are looking to advance past the first round for the first time in three years, they have to feel good that their players will be together for a while.

“Every single one of them comes back” next season, Spinella said. “You can’t put a price on that.”

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01/20/11 11:10pm
01/20/2011 11:10 PM

ISLIP TERRACE — With the playoffs around the corner, Riverhead Blue Waves Coach Dave Spinella has concerns about his girls basketball team peaking too early.

The Blue Waves have won five consecutive games and eight of nine. Their most recent victory came via a 54-37 decision over East Islip in a Suffolk County League III encounter last Thursday.

“We’re certainly not playing our best basketball yet, that’s for sure,” Spinella said. “We’re going to continue to work hard every day until we do.

“Hopefully, you time it right that they really start to peak when they go into the playoffs. It’s always the team that’s hottest going in. Hopefully, we’ll be there. We definitely have much room for improvement. We’re playing very well, but as a coach you’ve got to find what we’re not doing well and fix it.”

Despite playing without center Kaila Nazario, sidelined due to an allergic reaction to medication, guard Shaniece Allen led the Blue Waves (8-3, 6-1) with 17 points. Melodee Riley added 15 points and 15 rebounds and point guard Jalyn Brown connected for all of her 14 points in the first half and dished out eight assists.

Spinella was most impressed with the defense. “We’re holding teams under 40 every night,” he said. “What else can you ask for? You’re going to have to score 50 to beat us and teams are not doing that.”

The game followed a familiar script as Riverhead struggled out of the starting gate. They were sloppy, mistake-prone and rushed their shots as the Redmen (3-6, 3-4) grabbed a 7-3 lead.

“We have to get out of that slow start because it might cost us a game in the long run,” Allen said. “We have to pick it up from the get-go like we come out in the second half.”

Brown agreed. “We had a big talk in the locker room about selfish play,” she said. “Our coach was really upset about that. We have to work as a family. … If we don’t make a family now we can’t make it to the finals or final four of the playoffs.”

The game turned after Spinella was assessed a technical foul for disputing a referee’s call. Amanda Borbee (eight points) sank both attempts to give the hosts a four-point advantage with 2 minutes 12 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Brown felt the technical inspired the Blue Waves. “We get so motivated because sometimes he doesn’t deserve a technical,” she said. “He backs us up.”

Spinella wasn’t as convinced.

“I don’t think that had that much to do with it,” he said. “We just started playing harder. We woke up and realized we had scored seven points in the quarter. We’re averaging 60-something points a game and here we are with seven points in a quarter. The thing about this team is that they know when they’re not playing well. They know when they have to step their game up.”

Brown took things into her own hands, scoring eight successive points to transform that deficit into an 11-7 lead that Riverhead never relinquished with 6:47 remaining in the second quarter.

“She went on a run,” Allen said. “She’s a good player. She knows what to do with the ball.”

Allen gave Riverhead a scare with 33.9 seconds left when she tripped over a player and hit her head on the floor. “Had to put ice on it, but I’m fine now,” she said. “It was just my head.”

Allen came out possessed in the second half, scoring the first eight points to turn a 25-16 halftime lead into a 33-16 bulge. “She came back in like nothing happened,” Brown said.

While Riley dominated the boards, she was only 3 for 16 from the foul line.

“If she hit half, she would be looking at a 25-point night,” Spinella said. “But she does her job. She gets the rebounds and puts the ball back up. You take the good with the bad.”

Sinking foul shots consistently has been a concern. Against East Islip, Riverhead put away only 9 of 28 attempts.

“It’s mostly foul shots that slowed us up,” Brown said. “Foul shots have been a big factor. Either we have close wins or large wins. It’s always foul shots that come down to the wire.”

01/20/11 7:56pm

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Trevon Ward of Riverhead lofted a shot while being guarded by East Islip's John Dondero.

For two and a half quarters on Thursday night, the Riverhead Blue Waves were running neck and neck with the East Islip Redmen. But it was the final 12 minutes that will be most remembered, and not too kindly by the Blue Waves.

A game that was tied at 23-23 by halftime, appeared to start to swing Riverhead’s way when the Blue Waves used a layup by Tim Clement, two free throws by Alex Sakhno and a basket by Ben Edmund to take a 31-25 lead. But then things changed in a major way. East Islip proceeded to go on a 20-0 run as home fans in the Riverhead High School gym grew uneasy. Riverhead didn’t score again until Edmund downed a foul shot at 1:13 of the fourth quarter, and by then it was too late. The score was 45-31 when East Islip’s Evan Maxwell capped the spurt with a conventional three-point play.

Second-place East Islip went on to complete a 57-41 victory in the Suffolk County League III game, staying close to the first-place Copiague Eagles and taking a two-game lead over third-place Riverhead as the teams completed the first half of the league season.

“For some reason we just got it together,” East Islip Coach Robert Schwender told reporters after his team’s third straight win. “We answered [Riverhead’s run], which is always a big deal. You’re always hoping in any of these type of games, where both teams are good, you’re going to have to answer some sort of run.”

East Islip (9-2, 6-1), which is one win away from clinching a playoff berth for the ninth time in 10 years, triumphed with the aid of a 2-1-1 trap defense. The defense didn’t create many turnovers, but it held Riverhead to a season-low point total. The Blue Waves shot 37.2 percent from the field, including 1 of 9 from beyond the three-point line (East Islip had seven three-pointers). Riverhead shot 5 for 18 from the field in the second half.

“They just couldn’t get a shot off, so I guess we did a good job being able to defend,” said Schwender.

Although he hardly appeared jubilant afterward, Riverhead Coach John Rossetti also did not sound the alarm bell. He pointed out that his 5-6 team has a 4-3 league record and is on a pace to qualify for the playoffs.

“Four and three in the league at the turn is good,” he said. “We’re on course to be where we want to be.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead's Tim Clement looked as if he was going to hit the floor while rounding East Islip's Tyler Begley.

“Right now we’re working our way to being the best basketball team that we can be,” he continued. “There are some nights when we play better than others, but I have confidence in this team, trust in this team, and I stand by this team 100 percent.”

Riverhead senior guard Rodney Rollins said: “We’re alright. Four and three, we could be better. We’re trying to make a better effort the second time through the teams. Every single game that we lost is winnable, so all we have to do is pick up the little mental mistakes and possibly go 7 and 0 the next time around.”

A big reason why East Islip was able to turn a close game into a runaway was the play of its big man, Maxwell. The 6-foot-7 junior proved to be a handful, accounting for 16 points and 14 rebounds.

“The kid Evan Maxwell is a special kid,” Schwender said. “He’s had a bunch of 20-point, 20-rebound games.”

Maxwell scored seven points during the 20-0 run, which also featured a pair of three-point shots by Brian Bennett. Bennett ended up with 14 points and Steven Frost had 11 for the Redmen.

“We just have good chemistry,” Maxwell said. “We’ve been playing together for a while now. We don’t care about stats or anything. We just play together.”

Rollins said Maxwell probably touched the ball every single trip he made down the court. “He’s obviously their main focus,” said Rollins.

Riverhead received 13 points from Edmund and 11 from Clement.

“I just think we had a mental breakdown,” Rollins said. “Our third quarters we’re trying to work on. Teams seem to score a lot of points and we seem to have a little of a dry spell in the third quarter. That’s pretty much what happened.”

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