10/13/13 11:22am
10/13/2013 11:22 AM

Thousands of frustrated parents and educators from across Long Island were expected to attend a forum in Garden City Tuesday night for an opportunity to speak with New York State Education Commissioner John King about Common Core curriculum and state testing.

But that meeting has been cancelled.

The New York State PTA, which was to sponsor the event as part of a series of forums across the state, announced on its website Saturday that the event and three other similar forums have been postponed at the request of the commissioner’s office.

“The New York State Education Commissioner’s office has requested suspending the remaining Town Hall meetings on the Common Core scheduled in the upcoming weeks,” the statement reads. “Please know that NYS PTA will continue to work with all education and child advocacy partners to keep our members updated and informed on education, health, safety and welfare issues affecting children and families.”

Attempts to reach the commissioner’s press office were unsuccessful Sunday.

The commissioner told Newsday Saturday that the cancellation comes after “special interests” hijacked the first such forum. The first two forums were held in Poughkeepsie and Whitesboro, N.Y.

“The disruptions caused by the ‘special interests’ have deprived parents of the opportunity to listen, ask questions and offer comments,” Mr. King told Newsday in a statement. “Essentially, dialogue has been denied.”

Dennis Tompkins, a King spokesman, declined to identify the special interests, Newsday reported.

Tuesday’s event was scheduled for 7 p.m. at Garden City High School. It was the only such forum scheduled for Long Island.


12/01/12 8:57pm
12/01/2012 8:57 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead’s Jeremiah Cheatom ran for 200 yards in the first half and 31 in the second half.


A mere glance reveals that Garden City’s football team does not have much in the way of size. Scanning across the field at the Trojans, one will not find a single bulky lineman among the bunch.Yet, while the Trojans are undersized in stature, no one can question the size of their heart.

After posting come-from-behind wins over Carey and Wantagh in the Nassau County semifinal and final, respectively, Garden City pulled off another comeback on Saturday, this time for a Long Island Class II championship at Riverhead’s expense.

Brett Stewart passed for two touchdowns and then ran for two more as Garden City turned the game around in the second half for a 29-16 triumph at Stony Brook University’s Kenneth P. LaValle Stadium. It was the fifth Long Island title for Garden City, which has played in 14 such finals.

Stewart, who recalled the pain of losing to Newfield in last year’s Long Island final, went from his worst football experience to his best in one year’s time. Clutching the championship trophy, he said, “I’ve never been happier than this moment here.”

It was a different feeling for Riverhead, which had lost to Garden City in a 2003 Long Island final. The Blue Waves, behind the impressive running of Jeremiah Cheatom in the first half, looked on the way to what would have been their second Long Island crown. Then, after a first half that ended with Riverhead ahead, 16-7, the game turned dramatically in Garden City’s favor. The Trojans (11-1) made adjustments, put eight players in the box and clamped down on Cheatom. Cheatom, who ran 24 times for 200 yards in the first half, managed only 31 rushing yards from nine carries in the second half. Meanwhile, Riverhead’s normally explosive passing game was limited to 104 yards.

“The way we played in the first half, the game was in our favor,” said Riverhead junior Michael Van Bommel, who was involved in nine tackles, including a sack. “We had it in our hands. The way they came out and played really shocked me.”

Garden City has been full of surprises this year. Even its revered coach of 28 years, Tom Flatley, said he would have been happy with a 5-3 record this year. Flatley said this year’s Garden City team surprised him more than any team he has coached in his 48-year coaching career.

“These kids were happy to play,” Flatley said. “Football is not a chore to them.”

Garden City has an offensive line with two sophomores who never played offensive tackle before, a 170-pound center who was a fullback one week before the season started, one guard who weighs 165 pounds and another guard who had never played on the offensive line before.

What the Trojans do have, however, are athletes.

“We get the ball in space to our playmakers and they score touchdowns,” said Stewart.

Stewart went 13 of 23 for 199 yards and two touchdowns, a 28-yarder and a 24-yarder, both to Ed Blatz (seven catches, 141 yards). But Stewart used his legs to put Garden City in front. The junior quarterback, who ran up 136 rushing yards on 27 attempts, scored the go-ahead touchdown on a naked bootleg around the left side from three yards out. Justin Guterding’s pass to Kyle Skramko for the two-point conversion made it 22-16 with 22.3 seconds left in the third quarter.

It was a quarter Riverhead (9-3) would prefer to forget, but then again, the fourth quarter wasn’t especially kind to the Blue Waves, either. On the second play of the fourth quarter, James Sullivan recovered a fumble, giving Garden City possession for a drive that ended with another three-yard touchdown run by Stewart.

That pretty much sealed things before Garden City’s postgame celebration.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” said Scott D’Antonio, who was in on a game-high 11 tackles for Garden City. “The stakes were so high here, and we got the job done.”

The first half was all about Cheatom, with the fleet-footed junior touching the ball on 25 of Riverhead’s 36 plays in the half. Cheatom set up the game’s first score, a six-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Bitzer to Jaron Greenidge with 4.5 seconds to go in the first quarter. Cheatom scored himself on a one-yard burst in the second quarter.

“I just kept the intensity up,” said Cheatom, who registered his fourth 200-plus-yard game of the season. “I wanted this thing so bad.”

Devrim Kucuk’s career-best 36-yard field goal made it 16-7 Riverhead with 1:16 left in the first half. That was before the momentum swung against the Blue Waves, who uncharacteristically struggled on offense. They went 2 of 11 on third-down plays.

Facing reporters after the game, Riverhead coach Leif Shay said: “I think we had a great season. We’re Suffolk County champions. We’re one of three teams that have been able to do that in Riverhead’s history, so we got to be proud of that accomplishment. We fell short of the Long Island championship, but we had a championship.”

Cheatom, speaking about the season, said: “It’s a great experience, but you know, everybody always wants to be a champion, so you never want to stop here. You always want to keep going.”

In the end, the day belonged to Garden City, It was a day the Trojans will talk about for years to come.

“This is huge,” Stewart said. “This is the happiest day of my life. I’m happy that we proved the people who doubted us wrong. We’re Long Island champions.”

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ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Jaron Greenidge of Riverhead nearly intercepted a Garden City pass, but the ball popped loose when he hit the ground.

12/01/12 11:40am

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.

11/30/12 7:00pm
11/30/2012 7:00 PM

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Ryan Bitzer and the Riverhead Blue Waves will play Garden City Saturday for the Class II Long Island Championship.

When Garden City defeated Wantagh 21-17 Sunday, the Trojans locked up their fourth consecutive Nassau County Division II championship. Trips to the Long Island championship have become the norm for Garden City.

Only they haven’t always ended well.

The Trojans have lost their two L.I. title games (26-21 to Bellport in 2010 and 14-7 to Newfield in 2011) heading into Saturday’s noon showdown with Riverhead at Stony Brook University. [Live coverage will be provided at riverheadnewsreview.com]

The 10-1 Trojans needed to overcome a 10-point deficit late in the third quarter Sunday to make it four straight titles.

Garden City features a versatile quarterback in junior Brett Stewart who is a threat to run and pass. Stewart rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown against Wantagh while also throwing for 120 yards and a touchdown.

The Garden City offense revolves around Stewart so the Riverhead secondary will need to lock down the Trojan receivers to allow the players up front to contain Stewart’s running game. Stewart’s 21 passing touchdowns this season is a school record.

Garden City’s always been known to have a strong defense and this season the Trojans have given up 13.6 points per game.

In Riverhead’s last trip to the Long Island finals in 2008, the Blue Waves defeated Elmont 42-6. This will be the third time Riverhead will play for a Long Island title since the current system was implemented in 1992. The Blue Waves lost 20-0 in 2003 to Garden City.

Garden City is 4-9 all-time in the Long Island championship.

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