09/11/14 8:00am
09/11/2014 8:00 AM
Ethan Greenidge, a 6-foot-5, 320-pound lineman, is one of Riverhead's three all-division players. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Ethan Greenidge, a 6-foot-5, 320-pound lineman, is one of Riverhead’s three all-division players. (Credit: Garret Meade)

PREVIEW

So, what will be vital for the Riverhead High School football team as it makes a bid this year for a third straight Suffolk County Division II championship? Will it be the play of its quarterback, Kenny Simco? The blocking of the offensive line? The running prowess of Ryun Moore? The tenacity of its defense?

While all of the above will undoubtedly be important, those are not the answers coach Leif Shay gave when asked that question. As Shay sees it, it comes down to something far more elemental: team chemistry and player personalities.

Shay said how well his players get along with each other and respect each other — the subject of his speech to them on the first day of preseason practice — will go a long way toward determining whether the Blue Waves go a long way. (more…)

08/22/14 6:00pm
08/22/2014 6:00 PM
Kenny Simco, a senior quarterback, has a 4-0 record as a varsity starter. Last season he completed 39 of 55 passes for 439 yards and 5 touchdowns. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Kenny Simco, a senior quarterback, has a 4-0 record as a varsity starter. Last season he completed 39 of 55 passes for 439 yards and 5 touchdowns. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Just because two football players are friends doesn’t mean that they can’t be competitors, and just because they are competitors doesn’t mean that they can’t be friends.

That’s the nature of the game. That’s the situation Kenny Simco and Sharron Trent find themselves in. The Riverhead Blue Waves have an old-fashioned quarterback controversy, featuring both of them. (more…)

08/21/14 4:00pm
08/21/2014 4:00 PM
Raheem Brown gives a teammate a lift during practice. Coach Leif Shay said the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Brown is, pound for pound, one of the strongest players he has ever coached.

Raheem Brown gives a teammate a lift during practice. Coach Leif Shay said the 5-foot-9, 180-pound Brown is, pound for pound, one of the strongest players he has ever coached.

When a high school football team loses a couple of dozen players, like Riverhead has, it’s comforting for a coach to know he has some returning players to count on. That’s what Leif Shay has in Raheem Brown and Ethan Greenidge.

“It’s great to have those building blocks,” Shay said. “You build foundations, and then those guys are solid, you know you can rely on them, and hopefully you put the pieces around them.” (more…)

08/18/14 3:53pm
08/18/2014 3:53 PM
Riverhead players take part in a get-up drill during the team's first preseason practice on Monday morning. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Riverhead players take part in a get-up drill during the team’s first preseason practice on Monday morning. (Credit: Garret Meade)

The Riverhead High School football team seems to have a newfound interest in jewelry, and that’s not just because Raheem Brown complimented a reporter on his gold necklace after the team’s first preseason practice on Monday morning.

No, it goes beyond that. What the Blue Waves are particularly interested in are rings — as in championship rings. (more…)

06/25/14 10:38pm
06/25/2014 10:38 PM
Riverhead's Jeremiah Cheatom on the sideline during the first half of the Empire Challenge Wednesday night. (Credit: Garret Meade)

Riverhead’s Jeremiah Cheatom on the sideline during the first half of the Empire Challenge Wednesday night. (Credit: Garret Meade)

EMPIRE CHALLENGE

All-star games can lead to some peculiar game situations. Especially in a football game like the Empire Challenge, the annual showcase event featuring the best of Long Island against New York City.

Early in the second quarter Wednesday night at Hofstra University, the Long Island squad had already exhausted its two allotted punts for the half when it found itself facing a fourth-and-10 from its own 5 yard line.  (more…)

12/03/13 7:00am
12/03/2013 7:00 AM
DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Riverhead sophomore Ryun Moore, making his third start at running back, navigates around Carey's Joseph Lucito for a first down.

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Riverhead sophomore Ryun Moore, making his third start at running back, navigates around Carey’s Joseph Lucito for a first down.

Ryun Moore has been referred to by Riverhead High School football coach Leif Shay as the team’s future. On Friday, though, the future became the present when Moore, a sophomore, was handed the starting running back assignment in the Long Island Class II championship game.

That’s a big spot for a young player. Moore admitted he felt nervous as the team bus pulled into the Hofstra University parking lot, “but after the first play, all of that goes away, you know. Football is football.”

Indeed, with a Long Island championship on the line, a game was to be played, and Moore played well in Riverhead’s 20-6 loss to Carey at James M. Shuart Stadium.

Two first-string Riverhead players, running back Jeremiah Cheatom and outside linebacker Taiheem McKay, both seniors, had to sit out the Long Island final. That meant a heavy dose of double duty for Moore, who also started on defense at outside linebacker.

“We had a lot of confidence in him,” Shay said. “There’s a difference between being the number one back and then being the complimentary back.”

Moore said he was excited by the opportunity to be his team’s primary ball carrier, and he didn’t let the Blue Waves down. Facing a tough Carey defense anchored by the likes of Conor Colasurdo (8 1/2 tackles), Matt Robison (7 1/2 tackles) and Joseph Lucito (7 tackles, 1/2 sack), Moore had his work cut out for him. Running behind an offensive line of tackles Michael Drexel and Ethan Greenidge, guards Jonathan Lee and Ryan Harkin, and center Edward Wills, he got the job done. Moore averaged 6.3 yards per carry and totaled a game-high 126 rushing yards, his longest run going for 30 yards.

That wasn’t all, either. Moore excelled on both sides of the ball. He made a team-leading 7 tackles, including one for a loss and forced a fumble.

“Ryun stepped up big and played his heart out,” said Riverhead senior Jaron Greenidge. Greenidge added: “He’s going to be something special in two years. … He’s going to be here again.”

Shay knows what type of an athlete he has in Moore. “He’s a good football player,” the coach said. “He’s matured a lot, too. He’s understanding that, ‘Hey, I got to make those tough three- and four-yard runs.’ Not every play is going to be a touchdown like it was on JV.”

This wasn’t the first time that Moore started a game at running back for Riverhead; it was his third start at that position. With Cheatom ineligible to play in the season opener against North Babylon, Moore used his explosiveness to produce 112 yards and a touchdown from 18 carries in that game.

Jaron Greenidge gave kudos to Moore and two other sophomores. “Tyrese Kerr, Ryun Moore and Sharon Trent are going to be, I’d say, superstars in two years,” said Greenidge.

Following the loss to Carey, Moore reflected on a season that he couldn’t feel too bad about.

“This was a great season,” he said. “Back in August, before two-a-days started, I honestly didn’t think we were going to make it back this far. We made it to LIC — again — so it’s a good feeling. A great season.”

With Moore returning next year, the Blue Waves have more to look forward to. They already know that Moore can carry the load offensively.

“He’ll come in next year and be a good player for us,” Shay said. “He’s the future. You’re going to see a lot of that kid in the future.”

bliepa@timesreview.com

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

11/23/13 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