11/29/13 11:28pm
11/29/2013 11:28 PM
DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Riverhead's Jaron Greenidge runs for a first down before meeting up with Carey's Taylor Steinberg.

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Riverhead’s Jaron Greenidge runs for a first down before meeting up with Carey’s Taylor Steinberg.

LONG ISLAND CLASS II FINAL | SEAHAWKS 20, BLUE WAVES 6

Black Friday will forever have a different meaning to the Riverhead High School football team.

As extraordinary as this season has been for Riverhead, one couldn’t help but feel that a Long Island championship wasn’t in the cards for the Blue Waves on Friday. For one thing, Riverhead had lost the services of two senior starters, running back Jeremiah Cheatom and outside linebacker Taiheem McKay, because of academic ineligibility. At this final stage of the postseason, that would be a significant blow for any team.

Then again, that has been the way things have gone this year for the Blue Waves. They meet a challenge, and then prepare for the next one. So, what’s another obstacle?

Well, Carey, as it turned out, was quite a formidable one. Just ask Carey’s opponents in its previous 11 games, all wins by the Seahawks.

For the second year in a row, Riverhead’s quest for a second Long Island crown fell short in the Class II final. Carey, playing in its first Long Island final in team history, saw to that. The Seahawks scored all of their points in a span of 8 minutes 49 seconds in the second quarter and made it stand for a 20-6 triumph at Hofstra University’s James M. Shuart Stadium.

Afterward, it was the Carey players jumping for joy and hugging each other for having capped a perfect 12-0 season while the Riverhead players solemnly trudged toward their sideline.

“It was just an off day,” said Riverhead senior Jaron Greenidge.

This has been a magical season for Carey, which a week earlier defeated Garden City for its first Nassau County title since 1978. Considering what Carey has now accomplished, it was only logical to ask the team’s seventh-year coach, Mike Stanley, if this is the best team the Seahawks have ever had?

“We can say it now,” replied a grinning Stanley, clutching a giant plaque shaped like Long Island.

How much of a difference did it make not having Cheatom and McKay on the field?

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Carey running back Mike DeLeo is stopped by Riverhead defensive lineman Jonathan Lee for no gain.

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Carey running back Mike DeLeo is stopped by Riverhead defensive lineman Jonathan Lee for no gain.

“It’s hard when you have a leader like Jeremiah be at the heart of your running game, and you know Taiheem has been instrumental to us as the outside linebacker, but we’ve been doing it all year, replacing guys, next man up, next man up,” said Riverhead coach Leif Shay, whose team is 1-3 in Long Island finals. “It was a little more difficult against a great team. Give Carey credit. This wasn’t us losing to Carey, this was Carey beating us.”

Cheatom’s absence was big, considering he ran for 1,742 yards and scored 18 touchdowns this year. Ryun Moore, a good-looking sophomore, started his third game of the season at running back in place of Cheatom, who missed the season-opening game because of academic ineligibility. Roger Foster started in place of McKay.

Asked about the impact of not having those two players, Moore said, “Honestly, it hurt us a lot.”

Although perhaps not as much as it might have, thanks a good deal to Moore, who also played outside linebacker. He ran for 126 yards on 20 rushes and made 7 tackles (5 unassisted), one for a loss.

Carey has been an offensive juggernaut, outscoring its opponents by 456-64. Its quarterback, senior Ray Catapano, put up video-game numbers, remarkable numbers this season: 36 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, 2,163 yards.

So, imagine what went through the Seahawks’ minds when they completed the first quarter on Friday without having scored a point. “That never happened to us before,” said Catapano, who went 7 of 16 passing for 92 yards and was sacked three times.

For all of Catapano’s passing skill, it was his legs, not his arm, that brought Carey its first points. With the ball at the Riverhead 7-yard line, Catapano went back to pass. Seeing no one open, he scrambled first to his right before trekking back to his left and finding an opening into the end zone. He then made a 2-point pass to Nick Spillane for an 8-0 lead 1:34 into the second quarter.

With the Carey fans chanting, “Carey! Carey! Carey!”, the Seahawks wanted more. On the ensuing kickoff, Luke Spano scooped an onside kick that caught Riverhead (10-2) by surprise. Mike Catanese covered up the ball, giving Carey possession at the Riverhead 36.

No points came out of that drive, but Carey later went to the air to score on successive possessions. Catapano found Andrew Ris for a 24-yard scoring connection.

After Riverhead went into punt formation on its next series, a high snap to punter Dylan Pace forced Pace to tuck the ball and run for a two-yard loss on fourth down. That handed the ball over to Carey on the Riverhead 35, prompting the Seahawks to try some more trickery. On the first play after the botched attempted punt, Catapano lateralled to Ris, who threw to a wide open Spillane in the end zone.

“There’s no tomorrow, so we have to pull out everything that’s going to work,” said Stanley.

A fumble recovery by Raheem Brown set up the seven-play, 80-yard drive that brought Riverhead its only points of the game through a 14-yard pass from Cody Smith to Greenidge with 9:21 left to play. Smith went 21 of 32 passing for 161 yards.

Carey’s next drive ended when Moore forced a fumble that Tyrese Kerr recovered for Riverhead. The Blue Waves moved the ball on 12 plays before the drive stalled on the Carey 9. Carey then ran out the final 1:31 for the biggest win in team history.

“It’s unreal,” Ris said. “For the past couple of years we just wanted to get to this game and finish the season strong. No matter how we got here, we just wanted to finish it.”

What did this Carey team have that set it apart from others? Perhaps togetherness.

“It’s just a special night, a special season,” Stanley said. “We played a lot of young kids last year. They grew up fast and our commitment in the off-season was terrific, but this group cared about each other probably more than any other group we ever had.”

Catapano said: “I think our team defines the word family. The camaraderie on this team, you can’t find it anywhere else on the island. … There’s no other team I’d rather play for.”

Addressing his players after the postgame awards ceremony, Shay told them he didn’t want to see any tears or sadness.

“They should never hang their heads,” he told a reporter. “They’re Suffolk County champions. They’re back-to-back Suffolk County champions, and for everything that they’ve had to endure, the town should be very proud of these kids and they should be proud that the program is in a good place.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

11/29/13 4:10pm

JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO | The celebration begins for Carey after a 20-6 win Friday night over Riverhead in the Class II Long Island Championship at Hofstra University.

CLASS II Long Island Championship
Carey 20, Riverhead 6

Hofstra University

The Riverhead Blue Waves fell to the Carey Seahawks 20-6 in the Class II Long Island Football Championship at Hofstra Stadium Friday.

It was the second straight year the county champion Waves lost in the Long Island title game.

It’s the first L.I. championship for Carey of Franklin Square, which scored all three of its touchdowns during a nine-minute stretch in the second quarter. The Seahawks hadn’t won a Nassau County title since 1978.

Jaron Greenidge scored Riverhead’s only touchdown on a 14-yard pass from quarterback Cody Smith with 9:21 left in the fourth quarter. The Waves threatened to score again with about two minutes to play, but turned it over on downs five yards from the goal line.

Smith was 21 of 32 passing for 161 yards and the one score. He rushed for 42 yards on 8 carries.

Running back Ryun Moore — filling in for Jeremiah Cheatom, who was academically ineligible — had 20 carries for 126 yards. Moore also had a team-high seven tackles for the Waves.

Riverhead receiver Ryan Hubbard caught eight passes for 71 yards. Teammate Darren Jefferson had seven catches for 57 yards.

Carey quarterback Ray Catapano was 7 of 16 passing for 92 yards and one touchdown. He also scored on a 7-yard scramble.

Seahawks receiver Andrew Ris, who caught the one score from Catapano, also threw for a 35-yard touchdown to Nick Spillane.

Conor Colasurdo of Carey led all players with 8.5 tackles.

Riverhead actually outgained Carey 316 yards to 268.

Read a recap of our live blog below:

 

11/29/13 12:00pm
JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO  |  Riverhead fans were fired up for tonight's Division II county championship game against East Islip.

JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO | Riverhead fans were fired up for the county championship game. Today, the Blue Waves will play for the Long Island title.

Now, for an encore.

After last week’s stunning last-second win in the county championship, the Riverhead Blue Waves return to the field today for their final game of the 2013 season. The Blue Waves will face Carey at 4:30 p.m. at Hofstra University for the Class II Long Island Championship.

Check back tonight for a live blog from Stony Brook for real time updates on the game.

For a recap of Riverhead’s season thus far, click on the timeline below:

11/29/13 7:00am
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO  |  Riverhead running back Jeremiah Cheatom carried the Blue Waves on the ground Saturday against Hills West.

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Riverhead running back Jeremiah Cheatom will not be available for this afternoon’s Long Island Championship game.

Riverhead’s season will end as it began: minus running back Jeremiah Cheatom.

The Blue Waves (10-1) will take on undefeated Carey in the Class II Long Island Championship today without their star halfback, who was ruled academically ineligible this week, coach Leif Shay said. The Blue Waves were without Cheatom in the first game of the season as he nursed a hamstring injury. Since then, he’s been their featured rusher, scoring touchdowns in all but one game.

Losing Cheatom, who is a key player on defense as well, creates a huge void for Riverhead as the Blue Waves try to stop a high-octane Carey team. The Seahawks are 11-0 and have averaged 39.6 points per game. In the regular season, the Seahawks defense gave up just 22 points in eight games and four of their wins were shutouts.

Class II Long Island Championship: 4:30 p.m. Hofstra University, $7 admission

Carey defeated Garden City, the defending Long Island champion, 20-16 in the Nassau Division II final last week.

The Blue Waves will need to rely heavily on sophomore Ryun Moore on offense. Moore has seen some action on offense this year, but his biggest contribution has been on defense. Now, he’ll need to carry the load on both ends of the field.

Riverhead’s defense will be challenged by Carey quarterback Ray Catapano, who is equally a threat through the air and on the ground. He threw three touchdown passes in Carey’s win over Garden City. Catapano has twice thrown for five touchdowns in a game this season.

Riverhead is aiming for its first Long Island title since 2008, when the Blue Waves went undefeated and won the Rutgers Trophy as the top team in Suffolk County.

Prior to the Riverhead-Carey game, the Class IV championship game at Hofstra will feature Babylon against Roosevelt at noon.

Check back at 4:30 for live coverage from Hofstra of the Riverhead-Carey game.

joew@timesreview.com

11/23/13 9:43am
11/23/2013 9:43 AM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Ryan Hubbard holds the football after scoring a remarkable 84-yard touchdown on a punt return.

In a thrilling, last-second victory, the Riverhead football team won its second straight Division II county championship Friday night by defeating East Islip, 20-14. The Blue Waves got a three-touchdown game from Ryan Hubbard, who scored on offense, defense and special teams.

His 84-yard punt return for a touchdown won the game. Click here for a full recap. And click below for more photos from the championship game.

Hubbard TD on Make A Gif

11/23/13 3:00am
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Ryan Hubbard, shown returning the game's opening kickoff, scored all three Riverhead touchdowns, including the game-winner, an 84-yard punt return with six seconds to go.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Ryan Hubbard, shown returning the game’s opening kickoff, scored all three Riverhead touchdowns, including the game-winner, an 84-yard punt return with six seconds to go.

SUFFOLK DIVISION II FINAL | BLUE WAVES 20, REDMEN 14

Jaron Greenidge was probably one of the few people at Stony Brook University’s Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium on Friday night who didn’t see what may go down as the greatest special-teams play in Riverhead football history.

Greenidge, you see, was preoccupied on the Riverhead sideline. “I was too busy bowing my head, praying, hoping for a miracle to happen,” the tight end/free safety said, “and there it is.”

Indeed. There it is. Greenidge’s prayers were answered.

Just about everyone in the stadium was expecting the Suffolk County Division II final to go into overtime as time wound down. The only thing is, Ryan Hubbard and his Riverhead friends had other ideas.

With the score tied at 14-14, an East Islip drive stalled, and the Redmen punted. Hubbard caught the ball at his own 16-yard line, darted to his right before immediately cutting to his left. A block by Steven Reid guided him to an open lane down the sideline, and Hubbard’s speed took things from there as he sped to the end zone for an 84-yard return for a touchdown with six seconds left, giving top-seeded Riverhead a 20-14 triumph. Talk about dramatic endings.

“It’s one for the ages,” said Riverhead coach Leif Shay. He added: “It was just an amazing turn of momentum. Time stood still for me during that play.”

Riverhead tight end/linebacker Mike Van Bommel said: “We thought for sure we were going to overtime, and then Hubbard returns a punt [84] yards. Where did that come from?”

ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO | Jeremiah Cheatom surges forward, bringing Riverhead yardage against East Islip.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Jeremiah Cheatom surges forward, bringing Riverhead yardage against East Islip.

As Hubbard scored his career-high third touchdown of the night, the Riverhead bench erupted in celebration. It was a rare trifecta for the senior, who scored an offensive, defensive and special-teams touchdown.

“My teammates just came over and started smacking me in the face and jumping on me and stuff,” Hubbard said. “It was crazy. I couldn’t even think. I was just jumping.”

On the kickoff that followed, Roger Foster made the tackle that ended the game. Riverhead helmets flew in the air as the Blue Waves raced toward each other on the field.

The victory gave the Blue Waves (10-1) their second county championship in a row and seventh over all.

“Words can’t even describe [it], you know,” Van Bommel said. “On the bus here, I was thinking to myself, ‘When am I going to wake up from this dream?’ And now that we won, it’s like the dream keeps going, you know. It keeps getting better and better.”

The dream has been extended another week. Riverhead earned the right to face Nassau County champion Carey in the Long Island Class II final on Friday at Hofstra Stadium.

This is the fourth county title Riverhead has won under Shay. “This one’s special because of what we’ve had to go through this year to get to this point,” he said. “It’s been a rocky road, just fighting, fighting, fighting. The resolve of our kids is just unbelievable.”

“Unbelievable” is a good word to describe Hubbard’s performance against No. 3 East Islip (8-3). He scored two touchdowns within nine seconds of each other in the second quarter. On the first one, Cody Smith zipped a 3-yard pass to Hubbard, who fell into the end zone for the score. On the next play from scrimmage, Hubbard stepped in front of a pass by Hugens Tranquille and returned the interception 22 yards for a touchdown. Nico Bossey’s extra point made it 14-0.

“The kid’s spectacular,” Van Bommel said of Hubbard. “The kid’s got moves and that interception was just crazy. He’s just a playmaker, you know.”

Hubbard, a wide receiver and defensive back, was humble afterward, crediting his teammates for his glory. “This is awesome,” he said. “This is probably the biggest game of my life. I’m just glad to be here.”

Riverhead is 18-3 against Suffolk teams over the past two years. Two of those losses came at the hands of East Islip, including a 50-36 defeat early this season.

This time, though, Riverhead’s defense tightened the screws considerably, with the aid of Ryun Moore, who made a game-high 10 tackles, 7 solo.

East Islip was held to 53 yards of offense in the first half, but came out strong in the second half. With nothing happening for East Islip in the air (the Redmen completed only two passes for 8 yards), it leaned heavily on the running of Erik Adon (26 carries, 121 yards). A 6-yard run around the right side by Matt Walter put East Islip on the scoreboard in the third quarter. Adon’s 9-yard scoring run, followed by Jake Piacenti’s kick, evened the score with 5:22 left in the fourth quarter.

Just like that, it was a new game.

“We were feeling it, you know,” Van Bommel said. “The game wears on you, and by the fourth quarter you got to dig deep, dig through that pain. We just dug deep, we stayed strong and got the job done.”

“There’s nothing like this feeling,” he added. “We’ve all had a great year. We don’t want this to end, but a Long Island championship would be pretty nice to end on.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

11/22/13 10:29pm
11/22/2013 10:29 PM

JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO | The Riverhead Blue Waves celebrate their second straight Division II county championship Friday night after a thrilling 21-14 win over East Islip at Stony Brook University.

DIVISION II COUNTY FINALS
Riverhead 20, East Islip 14
Stony Brook University, LaValle Stadium

Ryan Hubbard scored three touchdowns — one on a pass, one on an interception and an 84-yard game-winning punt return — to give Riverhead its second straight Suffolk County Division II title Friday night.

Hubbard crossed the goal line for the game-winning score with just six seconds left on the clock. The game had been tied 14-14.

WATCH THE GAME-WINNING RETURN HERE

It’s the first back-to-back championship in Riverhead football history.

“It’s way better [for me this year],” said Riverhead’s Jaron Greenidge. “Senior year and we’ve been through a lot. Nobody thought we could make it here, but we made it here. We came through adversity and our team really pulled it out big time.”

Riverhead led the game 14-0 at halftime, but East Islip (8-3) responded with second half touchdowns from Matt Walter and Erik Adon, who led all players with 123 yards on 25 carries.

Jeremiah Cheatom had 87 yards on 22 carries for Riverhead, which has now won seven county titles. Waves quarterback Cody Smith completed nine of 15 passing attempts.

The Blue Waves (10-1) will play Nassau champion Carey (11-0) at 4:30 p.m. next Friday for the Long Island championship.

To read a play-by-play recap from tonight’s game, click on the blog below:

 

JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO | Riverhead fans were fired up for tonight’s Division II county championship game against East Islip.

11/22/13 12:28pm
DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO  |  Riverhead running back Jeremiah Cheatom scored two touchdowns Saturday against East Islip.

DANIEL DE MATO FILE PHOTO | Riverhead running back Jeremiah Cheatom scored two touchdowns against East Islip in Week 2. The teams meet again tonight for the county championship.

In the past two years, the Riverhead football team has posted a 17-3 record against Division II opponents in Suffolk County, including the playoffs.

Two of those losses have come at the hands of East Islip.

Tonight, at Stony Brook University, the Blue Waves will be aiming for their second straight county championship and will do so against the one team that has had their number the past two years. The Blue Waves (9-1) lost 50-36 at East Islip in Week 2 this season for their lone loss. But the Blue Waves have shown a vast improvement on defense as the season has progressed.

The winner of tonight’s game advances to the Class II Long Island Championship Nov. 29 at Hofstra University.

Check back tonight for a live blog from Stony Brook for real time updates on the game.

For a recap of Riverhead’s season thus far, click on the timeline below: