11/23/13 3:00am
11/23/2013 3:00 AM
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:

11/16/13 6:39pm
11/16/2013 6:39 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead running back Jeremiah Cheatom races toward the end zone for one of his three touchdowns Saturday against Newfield.

DIVISION II SEMIFINALS  |  BLUE WAVES 34, WOLVERINES 20

The end zone was never farther away at any point this season. Still, that’s where Jeremiah Cheatom stared ahead, knowing that somehow, that’s where he needed to be.

Late in the third quarter Saturday, trailing by a point against Newfield in the Division II semifinals, Riverhead began its second straight drive pinned as far back as possible: inside the 1-yard line, the end zone a full field away.

“When I’m at the 1-yard line, I’m looking at the end zone,” Cheatom said. “That’s where I want to go.”

With their backs pinned against the wall and the game’s momentum slipping away, the Blue Waves mounted their most impressive drive of the season when it counted most. The Blue Waves marched 99 yards on 16 plays, capped by a stirring 22-yard touchdown run from Cheatom that helped lift Riverhead to a thrilling 34-20 victory at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field.

The Blue Waves punched their ticket to Friday’s Division II county championship game at Stony Brook University, where they’ll look to successfully defend their county title. Riverhead (9-1) will meet East Islip, the only team that’s defeated the Blue Waves this season.

There was nothing easy about taking down the fifth-seeded Wolverines, a team the Blue Waves defeated 21-8 in Week 8.

“This was a battle,” said Riverhead coach Leif Shay, who was as emotional on the sideline in the second half as at any point in the season, even earning a flag for a sideline warning from an official.

The two-touchdown difference wasn’t entirely indicative of just how close it was. The Wolverines grabbed the lead at 20-19 on the third play of the second half when quarterback Dylan Harned bounced out of a scrum and bolted up the right sideline for a 64-yard touchdown run.

After Riverhead went three-and-out, the Wolverines got the ball back twice with a chance to add another touchdown. And both times Riverhead’s defense came through with a monumental stop on two fourth-and-goal plays.

The Wolverines missed two touchdowns by about four total inches.

“Those goal-line stands were great,” said Riverhead linebacker Mike Van Bommel. “I’m so proud of my guys.”

The first stop came on an 10-yard scramble from Harned on fourth-and-goal from the 11. He was stopped inches shy of the right pylon. The Blue Waves took over, but three plays later, Cheatom fumbled the ball on a play Shay was adamant should have been ruled down by contact. But the Wolverines got the ball right back on the Riverhead 6-yard line. And again, the Blue Waves got a stop when Josh Hanna was stopped on fourth-and-goal from the 4.

That set up Riverhead’s go-ahead drive, which spanned 6 minutes and 4 seconds.

“Our O-line took great pride in themselves,” Van Bommel said. “We were able to drive the whole length of the field for a score and I was really proud of our guys for that.”

When the Blue Waves defeated Half Hollow Hills West in the first round of the playoffs last week, Cheatom noted after the game how he didn’t break a big run. He predicted one was coming.

Late in the fourth quarter against Newfield, Cheatom delivered. After the defense came through with a huge three-and-out, Cheatom took the handoff on first down and sprinted 79 yards for the clinching touchdown, his third of the game.

“It came at the perfect time for us,” Shay said. “Jeremiah’s a special player. Obviously we’ve been leaning on him heavily this year. Hopefully one more game we’ll keep leaning on him.”

Van Bommel said as he saw Cheatom break open the run up the right sideline, there was no feeling like it.

“One second you’re blocking, the next second you see the best running back on Long Island sprinting down the sideline scoring a touchdown,” he said. “It’s great to know you have a guy in the backfield like that.”

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead junior R.J. Foster returned the game’s opening kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown.

The Blue Waves have been a strong second half team all season and they proved it once again in the fourth quarter. Newfield had zero yards of offense in the fourth quarter, punting on both possessions after three-and-outs. After scoring a touchdown on the first possession of the third quarter, Newfield totaled 26 yards of offense the remaining portion of the game and did not score.

Cheatom finished with another monster day. He tallied a game-high 199 rushing yards on 30 carries. Quarterback Ken Simco, filling in for the third straight game in place of injured senior Cody Smith, was 8-for-10 passing for 112 yards. He threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to senior Daren Jefferson that put Riverhead ahead 19-6 in the second quarter.

“The more reps he gets the better he’s going to get,” Shay said.

For the second straight game Riverhead opened with a huge special teams play. The Blue Waves recovered an onsides kick to start the Hills West game. And against Newfield, junior R.J. Foster returned the opening kickoff 70 yards for a touchdown. Riverhead led 12-0 after the first quarter. Cheatom scored on a 9-yard run with 30 seconds left in the first.

The Blue Waves will face a tough challenge against East Islip, which defeated Smithtown West in overtime Friday night.

The Blue Waves wouldn’t have it any other way.

“We’re looking for revenge,” Cheatom said. “They beat us early in the season so we’re definitely looking to get the win.”

joew@timesreview.com

11/16/13 8:00am
ROBERT O'ROURK PHOTO  |  Riverhead senior Jeremiah Cheatom powered the Blue Waves' offense on the ground Saturday against Newfield.

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Riverhead senior Jeremiah Cheatom leads the Blue Waves in the semifinals today against Newfield.

For the second time in three years, the Riverhead Blue Waves and Newfield Wolverines will meet in the Division II playoffs. The teams will kick off at 1 p.m. today at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field with a trip to the county championship game on the line.

The teams come into the game from opposite directions compared to when they met in 2011. The Blue Waves lost 37-0 on the final day of the regular season in 2011 to Newfield and promptly lost in the playoffs, 49-19.

It’s a different story this year, as the Blue Waves are the top seed in Division II and defeated Newfield 21-8 on the final day of the regular season. Both teams opened the playoffs with wins. Riverhead defeated Hills West, 44-21, while Newfield, the No. 5 seed, defeated West Islip, 18-14.

For updates from today’s game, follow the News-Review on Twitter

Riverhead’s defense bottled up Newfield throughout the previous matchup in Week 8. The only touchdown the Blue Waves allowed came in the final seconds of the first half set up after Newfield completed a long pass amid a crowd of Riverhead defenders. The Wolverines connected on two straight passes to reach the end zone in under 20 seconds.

Junior Ken Simco will start at quarterback for the third straight game in place of injured senior Cody Smith. Simco’s first start came against Newfield.

The winner of today’s game will advance to the Division II county finals Nov. 22 at Stony Brook University against East Islip, which defeated Smithtown West Friday night.

joew@timesreview.com

11/15/13 10:05pm
11/15/2013 10:05 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Babylon senior Jake Carlock makes a one-handed interception on a pass intended for Shoreham-Wading River receiver Isreal Squires in Friday night’s Division IV semifinal.

DIVISION IV SEMIFINALS  |  PANTHERS 42, WILDCATS 13

One of the most successful seasons in Shoreham-Wading River’s history came to an end Friday night at the hands of a team that’s well versed in sending other teams packing.

Top-seeded and unbeaten Babylon rolled to its 22nd straight win by walloping Shoreham, 42-13, in the Division IV semifinals at Babylon High School. The Wildcats, the No. 4 seed, finished the season 7-3.

Babylon advances to play No. 3 John Glenn in the county finals next week. Glenn rallied from a 14-0 hole to defeat Mount Sinai, 21-14, in the other semifinal Friday night at Mount Sinai High School.

The Wildcats never had much of a chance against the talented Panthers, whose spread offense and multitude of weapons made life miserable for the Shoreham defense. Babylon led 20-0 late in the second quarter before Shoreham broke through with a 36-yard pass play for a touchdown. Quarterback Daniel Hughes connected with junior Bryce Casey on a slant pattern for the touchdown with 4:03 left in the second quarter.

The Wildcats were in position to maybe make a game of it if they could get a stop on Babylon’s next possession. Shoreham had the ball to to start the second half.

But the Panthers marched 73 yards in just under three minutes to score another touchdown before the half and extend the lead to 26-6 at halftime.

Babylon senior running back Eric Schweitzer scored two touchdowns on the ground and tallied 113 rushing yards. Quarterback Nick Santorelli completed 7 of 11 passes for 149 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Ray Wardell, who’s 6-foot-5, caught four passes for 63 yards and had one touchdown. Wide receiver Jake Carlock caught a 30-yard touchdown pass and also returned an interception 51 yards for a touchdown on the Wildcats’ first possession of the second half.

Shoreham senior Tyler Anderson tallied a game-high 167 yards on 14 carries. He scored an 82-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter for Shoreham’s second score and ran for 25 yards on the game’s final play.

Hughes completed 7 of 15 passes for 117 yards. He was picked off three times.

Shoreham was without receiver/defensive back Isreal Squires in the second half because of a hip injury. Sophomore defensive back Chris Rosati was also limited with a nagging hamstring injury.

It was the second straight year Shoreham’s season ended in the semifinals. Two years ago the Wildcats lost to Babylon in the first round of the playoffs.

The Wildcats are now 1-15 all-time against the Panthers, who are marching toward a second straight Long Island title.

joew@timesreview.com

11/15/13 12:30pm
DANIEL DE MATO FILE PHOTO  |  Shoreham-Wading River quarterback Daniel Hughes scrambles with the ball against Babylon in Week 2.

DANIEL DE MATO FILE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River quarterback Daniel Hughes scrambles with the ball against Babylon in Week 2.

When the Shoreham-Wading River football team lines up against Babylon tonight in the semifinals of the Division IV playoffs, the odds will most definitely be stacked against the Wildcats.

The Panthers, defending Class IV Long Island champions, will take a 21-game win streak onto their home field, where they’ve been nearly unbeatable over the past decade. The Panthers have lost just twice since the start of the 2011 season.

While the top-seeded Panthers (9-0) enter as favorites, there’s reason for Shoreham (7-2) to be optimistic.

How can the Wildcats pull off the upset?

1. Control the clock

The Wildcats have relied on their ground game all season behind a veteran offensive line and the aggressive running of senior Tyler Anderson. In the first round of the playoffs, Anderson exploded for more than 400 rushing yards to break his previous school record. It won’t be that easy against Babylon, which has allowed double-digit points only twice this season. The Wildcats were one of those teams. But their 14 points scored were toward the end of the game after it already was lopsided. The Wildcats will need to control the pace of the game in order to win, running long drives, even if they end up without points.

2. Limit Babylon’s passing attack

Babylon quarterback Nick Santorelli lit up the Shoreham defense in the regular season matchup. Babylon’s strength is its ability to spread out a defense and throw the ball, which opens up the running game between the tackles. The Panthers have two dynamite receivers with tremendous size in 6-foot-5 Ray Wardell and 6-foot-2 Jack Carlock. The two combined for 12 receptions and three touchdowns when the teams last met. The Wildcats will need to avoid giving up big plays through the air, especially early in the game. If the Wildcats can force Babylon to run the ball, they’ll have a much better chance on defense.

3. Special teams

A key ingredient in any upset is the play of special teams, which can help swing the momentum of a game. The Wildcats have a tremendous kicker in Zach McAuley, who has the potential to add three points with a field goal if a drive stalls. A kick-off return or punt return for a touchdown would go a long way toward helping the Wildcats win an upset. Anderson has been returning kicks for Shoreham. He returned a punt 90 yards for a touchdown in Week 8 against Port Jefferson.

4. No mistakes

It goes without saying in any football game, but for the Wildcats to have a chance, they can’t cough the ball up or commit needless penalties. If the Wildcats can win the turnover battle, the game could be there in the end for the taking. And if the Wildcats can put Babylon in an uncomfortable position of being in a tight game in the fourth quarter, who knows what might happen.

11/10/13 10:00am
11/10/2013 10:00 AM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead running back Jeremiah Cheatom carried the Blue Waves on the ground Saturday against Hills West.


The 8-1 Riverhead Blue Waves opened the playoffs in style Saturday with a 44-21 win over Half Hollow Hills West. The win sends Riverhead into the semifinals next week against No. 5 Newfield.

See below for photos from Riverhead’s win over the Colts.