01/01/14 7:00am
01/01/2014 7:00 AM
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.

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

The season began with question marks for the Riverhead football team.

The Blue Waves were down several key players and were opening the season with a sophomore at running back.

After a loss in Week 2 to East Islip, it was fair to wonder just how far the Blue Waves might go this year. But quickly, things turned in the Blue Waves’ favor as Jeremiah Cheatom dominated on the ground and quarterback Cody Smith guided the team through the air.

The defense began to excel and the Blue Waves kept winning and winning. It culminated with a spectacular 84-yard punt return from Ryan Hubbard to win the Division II county championship at Stony Brook against East Islip, avenging their earlier season loss. The Blue Waves fell short in the Long Island championship, losing to Carey at Hofstra University.

Click here for a complete list of our 2013 top sports stories.

11/29/13 7:00am
11/29/2013 7:00 AM
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

11/16/13 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

11/09/13 4:04pm
11/09/2013 4:04 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Ryan Hubbard (2) celebrates with Jeremiah Cheatom after returning a punt for a touchdown in the first quarter Saturday against Hills West.

BLUE WAVES 44, COLTS 21

As Ryun Moore surged across midfield, bring the Blue Waves one final first down, Riverhead coach Leif Shay yelled out the next play: “Aces! Victory!”

All the remained was a kneel down, as the Blue Waves put the finishing touches on a 44-21 victory over Half Hollow Hills West in the first round of the Division II playoffs Saturday afternoon at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field.

The top-seeded Blue Waves excelled in all facets of the game, from offense to defense and special teams.

Backup quarterback Ken Simco, filling in for the second straight week for injured senior Cody Smith, scored two rushing touchdowns (both QB sneaks) and threw for another on a play-action pass to Mike Van Bommel. Senior Ryan Hubbard returned a punt for a touchdown on special teams. And the defense intercepted two passes (Andrew Kinard and Ethan Greenidge) and forced a safety.

Running back Jeremiah Cheatom powered the offense on the ground with 171 yards on 39 carries. Moore had a big day as well, adding 85 yards on 14 carries with a touchdown.

Riverhead advances to the semifinals next Saturday where the Blue Waves will host No. 5 Newfield, the winner over No. 4 East Islip. Teams are reseeded after the first round. No. 2 Smithtown West won Friday night and No. 3 East Islip defeated Smithtown East, so the teams remain in the same bracket.

The Blue Waves haven’t trailed very often this season, but they were staring at a 14-7 deficit after Hills West quarterback Anthony Lucarelli connected with a wide open Jake Klose on a 54-yard touchdown pass in the final minute of the first quarter.

But the Blue Waves rallied to score the next 28 points and blow the game open. The Blue Waves took the lead into halftime at 21-14 when Cheatom scored from three yards out with under a minute to play in the second quarter.

Riverhead then opened the third quarter with an 11-play, 58-yard drive that Simco capped with a 1-yard touchdown run. The score remained the same until the fourth quarter when Simco completed a 3-yard touchdown pass to Van Bommel to make it 35-14.

Simco completed 10 of 14 passes. Jaron Greenidge, who missed last week’s game, had 4 receptions.

joew@timesreview.com

10/12/13 8:46pm
10/12/2013 8:46 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead senior Mike Van Bommel had one of three Blue Waves interceptions Saturday against Smithtown West.

BLUE WAVES 21, BULLS 0

In many ways, the Riverhead Blue Waves see a bit of themselves in the Smithtown West Bulls. Both teams have a dynamic running back who runs behind a zone blocking scheme.

To prepare for Smithtown’s offense, all the Blue Waves had to do was line up in practice against their offense.

Facing a team Saturday that was averaging 46.5 points per game, the Blue Waves’ defense delivered an epic performance, blanking the Bulls over 48 minutes while forcing three turnovers. Riverhead bottled up Smithtown running back Logan Greco and caused fits for quarterback Matt Heldberg when he dropped back to pass.

It all added up to a 21-0 victory for the Blue Waves, who handed the Bulls their first loss of the season on homecoming night at Smithtown West High School in front of a packed house. Smithtown (4-1) was the last unbeaten team to fall in Division II.

“We told our scout team, they did a better job all week than Smithtown West did,” said Riverhead coach Leif Shay.

Smithtown West (4-1) never so much as reached the red zone against Riverhead. The Bulls closest scoring opportunity came at the end of the second quarter when John Pavacic came up short on a 47-yard field goal attempt.

Andrew Kinard, Mike Van Bommel and Ryan Hubbard all had interceptions for Riverhead. Steven Reid nearly had another, but couldn’t hang on to a pass that would have been an easy pick-six.

Senior Jaron Greenidge played a huge game on both sides of the ball for Riverhead. He caught two touchdown passes, the first on a 23-yard pass from quarterback Cody Smith. Greenidge made a terrific catch in the end zone, reaching in front of defensive back Christian Zawadzki, who had the position in front of Greenidge.

With under a minute left in the second quarter, Greenidge caught a 4-yard pass from Smith at the right pylon to put Riverhead ahead 14-0 at halftime.

The score remained that way until late in the fourth quarter when Jeremiah Cheatom ran in a 10-yard touchdown on the first play after an interception.

It’s been a dramatic turnaround for Riverhead’s defense after giving up 50 points to East Islip in Week 2, the only loss so far. Since then, the Blue Waves have given up just over 8 points per game.

The Blue Waves did it Saturday without senior Dan Czelatka, who was injured in the first quarter on defense. Czelatka appeared to land on his left elbow after leaping try to pick off a pass and suffered a dislocation, Shay said. He left the game in an ambulance.

Without Czelatka, a starter on both sides, the Blue Waves picked up the slack. Hubbard played a bigger role on both sides and caught a 22-yard pass. Daren Jefferson made an outstanding catch on a 35-yard pass play that helped set up Riverhead’s second touchdown.

Smith finished the game 11 of 13 passing for 173 yards. Cheatom carried the team on the ground with 138 hard-earned yards on 34 carries. Greenidge caught 5 passes for 87 yards.

Riverhead returns home next week for homecoming against Walt Whitman.

joew@timesreview.com

10/05/13 7:38pm
10/05/2013 7:38 PM

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Riverhead running back Jeremiah Cheatom breaks through the line to score a first-half touchdown Saturday against Bay Shore.

BLUE WAVES 40, MARAUDERS 18

Shortly before kick-off Saturday afternoon, Riverhead offensive coordinator Steve Gevinski approached running back Jeremiah Cheatom. His message to Cheatom was simple: Prepare for a big day.

That the Blue Waves would rely on Cheatom, a senior and three-year varsity player, came as no surprise. But not even Cheatom could have envisioned just how often the coaches were about to put the ball in his hands.

In the end, Cheatom carried a career-high 41 times against Bay Shore. He accounted for more than 65 percent of Riverhead’s plays from scrimmage.

And he more than delivered, racking up an astounding 263 yards with three touchdowns, more than enough to lift the Blue Waves to a crucial 40-18 Division II victory at Bay Shore High School.

“That was the most I ever had in my whole high school career,” Cheatom said. “It didn’t even feel like it, honestly. I came back to the sideline and they said 41 carries. I didn’t even realize.”

After attacking Central Islip last week through the air with an array of quick passes and screens, the Blue Waves shifted their game plan this week to an old-fashioned ground and pound.

“We thought [Bay Shore] was a very good finesse team,” said Riverhead coach Leif Shay. “They had a lot of athletes. But they like to play in open space. They don’t like to play bare-knuckle football. We decided we were going to control time of possession and give a heavy dose of Jeremiah.”

Cheatom was consistent all throughout, churning out at least four yards on half his carries. He had seven runs for double-digit yardage, the longest a 40-yard scamper in the second half that he nearly broke for a touchdown.

His first touchdown came just three minutes into the game on a 20-yard run. The play was set up by a Bay Shore miscue. After Riverhead forced a three-and-out, the Marauders lined up to punt. But on a low snap, the punter went down on a knee to pick the ball up and the official ruled him down. In high school football, a player is automatically ruled down when a knee hits, regardless of whether an opponent touches him.

The 3-1 Blue Waves caught a big break and started their first drive on the Bay Shore 28.

“Those are the type of plays you got to capitalize on,” Shay said. “If they’re going to give you a short field like that, we feel like we have an offense to take advantage of that. That was a big play early on I think to set the momentum that we’re here to play.”

Riverhead took a 21-6 lead into halftime. Cheatom’s second touchdown with 20 seconds left in the second quarter came on a two-yard run on fourth down.

In the third quarter, the Blue Waves put together a 16-play, 76-yard drive that ate up nearly seven minutes of the clock. Cheatom punched it in from a yard out to make it 27-6 Riverhead and effectively ended Bay Shore’s hopes of a victory.

“Bay Shore was a good team,” Cheatom said. “We just did our job and did what we had to do.”

Riverhead’s starting running back on opening day while Cheatom was injured, Ryun Moore got only one carry. He made the most of it, scoring a 40-yard touchdown for the Blue Waves’ final touchdown late in the fourth quarter. Moore did see significant time on defense.

The victory was a big one for Riverhead because Bay Shore was seeded No. 2 in the preseason. Victories against high-seeded teams are huge in the power rankings.

“Now we’re playing on house money,” Shay said. “We got a lot of points out of this game. If we win two of the next three, we’ll be a top-four team.”

That would guarantee Riverhead a home playoff game in the first round of the playoffs.

While Cheatom got the headlines Saturday, quarterback Cody Smith had an effective game when asked to throw the ball. He completed 8 of 12 passes for 55 yards. Five of the passes went to Jaron Greenidge, who also caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Smith early in the second quarter. The score put Riverhead ahead for good at 14-6.

Riverhead’s defense held its own against one of the more athletic teams in the division. Bay Shore’s top rusher, Simeon Eato, gained 65 yards on the ground. He scored on a 23-yard pass play from quarterback Ryan Mazzie for Bay Shore’s final score.

Jaquan Moore’s touchdown from 11-yards out tied the game at 6 early in the second quarter.

Riverhead returns to action next Saturday for a 4 p.m. game at Smithtown West.

joew@timesreview.com

Note: Radio clips courtesy of WRIV 1390

09/21/13 5:03pm
09/21/2013 5:03 PM

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Riverhead running back Jeremiah Cheatom scored two touchdowns Saturday against East Islip.

REDMEN 50, BLUE WAVES 36

The added jolt Jeremiah Cheatom provides Riverhead’s offense is unmistakable. The Blue Waves on Saturday were more than happy to welcome back their senior running back, who missed Week 1 and most of training camp with a hamstring injury.

Cheatom quickly reminded everyone why he’s one of the top backs in Division II. But even the added boost of Cheatom’s running wasn’t enough to overcome a multi-threat offense of East Islip.

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Riverhead quarterback Cody Smith drops back to pass in the first quarter Saturday.

Behind four touchdowns from senior running back Erik Adon, the Redmen won a shootout, 50-36, on homecoming at East Islip.

The Blue Waves (1-1) took a 22-21 lead on the first possession of the second half when quarterback Cody Smith threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Jaron Greenidge, who also hauled in a two-point conversion pass from sophomore Ryun Moore.

But after that play, the East Islip (2-0) offense rolled off three straight touchdowns, all on runs from Adon to blow open what had been a close, back-and-forth game.

The preseason No. 1 seed, East Islip showed off an ability to score in a variety of ways. Their big, tough offensive line put the Blue Waves in a position to have take some chances on defense. And when the holes were there, East Islip’s runners converted.

Quarterback Jack Hannigan threw two long touchdowns, a 75-yarder to Matt Walter and a 66-yarder to Hugens Tranquille. Walter rushed for a second touchdown late in the fourth quarter, a 33-yard scamper for the final East Islip touchdown.

While the Blue Waves’ defense faltered, the offense showed it can put up some big numbers this year. Cheatom rushed for more than 170 yards and scored twice. Wide receiver Dan Czelatka caught two touchdown passes, the second one coming from backup quarterback Ken Simco with 2:07 left in the fourth quarter.

Starter Cody Smith threw two touchdowns.

The Blue Waves capitalized early in the game on some East Islip miscues. The Redmen coughed the ball up on the opening kickoff, giving Riverhead great field position to start the game. After East Islip’s first touchdown, the Redmen’s next two possessions ended with an interception. Czelatka and Ryan Hubbard both came down with picks.

East Islip didn’t turn the ball over again. Instead, the Redmen scored touchdowns on six of their next seven possessions.

Riverhead can walk away from the game knowing it can compete with one of the top teams in the league. And also the knowledge that last year after losing in East Islip, the Blue Waves still went on to win the county championship.

Riverhead returns to action next week at home against Central Islip.

joew@timesreview.com

08/19/13 7:59pm
08/19/2013 7:59 PM
GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mike Van Bommel was followed by Ryan Harkin during an agility drill on Monday morning.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Mike Van Bommel was followed by Ryan Harkin during an agility drill on Monday morning.

On an unseasonably pleasant Monday morning, with a refreshing breeze blowing under a blue sky shaded by gray/white clouds, the Riverhead Blue Waves were back to work on the practice field. As with all other high school football teams in New York State, the clock on the new season began for Riverhead.

The race to put together a team for the 2013 season that the Blue Waves hope will successfully defend their Suffolk County Division II championship has begun. Some personnel changes have been made since the last time Riverhead was on the playing field for a loss to Garden City in the Long Island Class II championship game last November. Ryan Bitzer is gone. Quinn Funn is gone.

Some lesser known names will be moving into the spotlight this coming season, but that doesn’t mean they can’t play.

“There are new names, but remember, the program is conditioned to bring those kids through the middle school,” coach Leif Shay said. “You may not know that name, but we’ve known that name for five years.”

Jeremiah Cheatom, an all-county senior running back and outside linebacker who was named to Newsday’s All-Long Island Second Team, voiced confidence in his up-and-coming teammates. “We always had guys in the shadows who are excellent, too,” he said. “These are good players. Everybody on our team, they know what our guys can do. Just guys out of town, they don’t know. We’re going to have to show them.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead senior Andrew Kinard said the Blue Waves have the ability to return to the Long Island championship game.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead senior Andrew Kinard said the Blue Waves have the ability to return to the Long Island championship game.

Unlike last year, Riverhead doesn’t have to contend with the hype that comes with being the top seed in the division. This year they aren’t ranked No. 1, but No. 3 isn’t far away from that. They face the challenge of playing a schedule that coach Leif Shay believes is about as tough as it gets. That schedule includes road games against No. 1 East Islip and No. 2 Bay Shore.

No doubt about it, it will not be easy, but then again, Riverhead has a number of things working in its favor. For one thing, Cheatom, a splendid runner, isn’t a bad player to form an offense around. Also, the Blue Waves are blessed with athleticism and look good at the skill positions, with plenty of starting spots up for grabs.

“Right now everything is wide open,” Shay said. “This is probably one of the deeper teams I’ve had.”

Where Riverhead took a big hit, though, was on the offensive line. Building the line, Shay said, is going to be something for the team to focus on.

The team does have impact players: middle linebacker/tight end Mike Van Bommel; defensive end Troy Trent, a junior transfer from Longwood; wide receiver/cornerback Danny Czelatka; free safety Jaron Greenidge; left tackle/defensive tackle Ethan Greenidge (6-foot-4, 290 pounds); outside linebacker/running back Ryun Moore.

And a new quarterback: senior Cody Smith. Smith, who backed up Bitzer last year, brings a contrasting playing style to the one his predecessor had.

“He’s going to bring a very different type of quarterback to this team,” Shay said. “He’s not going to have those finesse throws that maybe Ryan had, but he’ll make those gritty plays. When it’s fourth-and-one he’ll stick his neck in there and make a tough play for you. The toughness that he brings to the position is kind of fun. He’s more a Brett Favre-type of quarterback than a Tom Brady-type of quarterback.”

Smith holds the advantage in the competition for the starting job, but Shay said Kenny Simco, a junior, has been looking sharp, too. Simco was the starting quarterback for the junior varsity team last year.

Andrew Kinard, a senior who played defensive end and outside linebacker last year, said the outlook is good. “We have a physical, mental team, and if we play together, play strong, play hard, play smart, we’ll get there; we’ll get back to LIC,” he said referring to the Long Island championship game. “We have better skill players, a lot more speed, and I feel our run game is going to be better than it was last year.”

That 29-16 loss to Garden City was a tough way to end a 9-3 season, but it may yet bring a benefit to the Blue Waves.

Cheatom said the experience of winning the county championship game against North Babylon was one of the best experiences of his life. The loss to Garden City was something else. “It was devastating,” he said. “The thing that ran through my head was, ‘What could I have done to fix those mistakes?’ But you can’t take it back. Things happen for a reason. That must have happened for a reason because it’s given me more fire and motivation for this year.”

bliepa@timesreview.com