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.


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.”


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.


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.”


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.


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.”


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.


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.


10/19/13 8:02pm
10/19/2013 8:02 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead senior Ryan Hubbard intercepted two passes and caught a 56-yard reception in Saturday’s win over Walt Whitman.


Dylan Pace briefly played quarterback during his younger days in P.A.L. Now as a junior on the Riverhead varsity, Pace is listed as an offensive lineman and defensive end, although his niche has been on special teams as a kicker.

In Saturday’s homecoming game against Walt Whitman, Pace’s role expanded to punter after the Blue Waves lost Dan Czelatka to an injury last week during their win over Smithtown West.

Over the last few weeks, the Blue Waves have practiced a fake punt play over and over, waiting for just the right time to unveil it. After two stalled drives to start Saturday’s game and the Blue Waves facing a fourth down in Whitman territory, Riverhead coach Leif Shay decided it was time.

Pace took the snap deep in punt formation, grabbed the ball with his right hand and fired a pass to Jaron Greenidge, who scampered 40 yards for a touchdown that stunned the Wildcats and put Riverhead ahead 14-0.

“I don’t even know how I threw it,” Pace said. “I wouldn’t call it lucky,” but I can throw it pretty good.”

Pace’s first varsity touchdown helped the Blue Waves roll to a 28-0 win over Whitman in front of a packed house at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field.

The Blue Waves notched their second straight shutout to improve to 5-1 in Division II.

SEE ALSO: Photos from homecoming parade

After Pace threw the touchdown, he didn’t have time to celebrate. The Blue Waves needed him to kick the extra point. Then, he had to kick off.

“I’m just glad I threw a touchdown and got my first touchdown,” Pace said.

Even the coaches were pleasantly surprised.

“Dylan’s really stepping up as an athletic kid,” Shay said. “We didn’t know he could throw that well.”

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead senior Jaron Greenidge makes one of his team-leading four catches against Whitman.

Pace has gotten better and better kicking extra points for Riverhead after the Blue Waves opened the season unsure who could kick. Shay said earlier in the season that it was important for the Blue Waves to be confident in kicking extra points.

Pace has now made his last seven kicks over the past two games.

“Toward the beginning of the season I was struggling with my extra points and kickoffs,” he said. “I’ve been practicing more and got better and better.”

Pace doesn’t consider himself an “actual kicker,” but said if the team needs him, he’s ready.

Senior Ryan Hubbard, who also had to step up in the absence of Czelatka, had a big day with two interceptions. He got the Blue Waves on the board in the first quarter with a 40-yard interception return for a touchdown. Late in the second quarter he picked off another pass.

“He’s been great for us all year,” Shay said. “He’s stepping up because Czelatka’s down, but he’s always been solid for us.”

Riverhead’s defense carried the load on a day where the offense didn’t generate the same spark it has in some earlier games. The Wildcats, despite a 1-5 record, made life difficult for the Blue Waves on offense.

Senior Jeremiah Cheatom still churned out 116 yards on 18 carries. He scored the Blue Waves’ final touchdown on a 12-yard run in the third quarter.

“They did a good job of presenting us some fronts that we hadn’t seen yet,” Shay said.

Riverhead’s defense didn’t allow much of anything. Whitman mustered just 53 yards of offense.

“Defensively we knew they were quick,” said Riverhead linebacker Mike Van Bommel. “No. 10 (Jaron Batts), small, shifty, we knew we had to corral him.”

The Blue Waves limited Batts to only 10 yards on 10 carries. The Blue Waves’ defense produced seven tackles for a loss.

“We finally started meshing,” Van Bommel said. “Playing as a team, we’re playing good responsible football.”

The Blue Waves scored two of their touchdowns on fourth down plays. Pace’s touchdown in the first quarter and then quarterback Cody Smith threw a 32-yard pass to Andrew Kinard in the second quarter on fourth-and-eight. That put the Blue Waves ahead 21-0. Kinard snatched the ball right out from under Terhon Legros, who was in disbelief that he let the ball go right past him.

Riverhead’s win sets the stage for what should be a good one next week against West Islip. The teams came into this week in a three-way tie for first place along with Smithtown West.

Before the season, one of Riverhead’s goals was to win “two out of the three W’s,” Van Bommel said, eluding to Smithtown West, Walt Whitman and West Islip.

So far, the Blue Waves are two-for-two.

“We would definitely like to go three-for-three,” Van Bommel said.

NOTES: A moment of silence was held before the game in honor of Benjamin Goodale, a Riverhead police officer who died suddenly Oct. 15. Mr. Goodale graduated from Riverhead in 1990 and played football during his high school years.

Riverhead senior Taylor Burgess, the 2013 Riverhead Idol winner, sang the national anthem prior to kickoff.


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.


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.


Note: Radio clips courtesy of WRIV 1390

09/11/13 9:00pm
09/11/2013 9:00 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK FILE PHOTO | Riverhead senior Jaron Greenidge will be a key player on both sides of the field for the Blue Waves.

When the Riverhead Blue Waves take the field Thursday afternoon in their season opener, the starting running back may get a few curious glances from the crowd.

No. 7? Who’s No. 7?

That would be Ryun Moore, a sophomore who played on the JV last year as the varsity team rolled to its third county championship since 2003. Few might have expected a sophomore to be next in line to start opening day, but that’s the situation facing the Waves.

As Jeremiah Cheatom — last year’s featured back — deals with a hamstring injury, the Blue Waves will turn to a promising young runner to carry a hefty load.

PREVIEW: Can SWR battle with the big dogs?

“He’s one of the toughest running backs we’ve had in a long time,” said Riverhead coach Leif Shay. “He came into camp in great shape and ready to play.”

Shay described Moore as a powerful, deceptive runner with good speed.

“He’s fun to watch,” Shay said.

PREVIEW: New vibe for Mercy this year

As an opportunity presented itself early in training camp, Moore seized it. Shay said he’s seen Moore getting more comfortable as training camp has progressed.

With the dynamic passing duo of quarterback Ryan Bitzer and wide receiver Quinn Funn gone, the Blue Waves still feel confident their passing attack can give opposing teams trouble. Senior quarterback Cody Smith, who spent the last two years backing up Bitzer, now gets the opportunity to start under center.

“He’s going to get better and better every week,” Shay said.

The Blue Waves return three talented receivers: seniors Dan Czelatka, Darren Jefferson and Ryan Hubbard.

Shay has high expectations for Czelatka, who saw some action on both sides of the field last year.

“I think he’s as good as anyone we’ve had at that position,” Shay said.

Senior Mike Von Bommel slides to tight end this year and will be a pivotal player blocking and running passing routes. Von Bommel was a star defensively last year and led the team in tackles. He’ll play middle linebacker again this year and look to anchor the defense.

Senior Jaron Greenidge is another key returning player from last year who will play a fullback/tight end position.

Shay said Von Bommel and Greenidge should solidify a lot of the blocking up front and help assist the offensive line, which is still a work in progress.

“We have some new guys up there,” Shay said. “They’re getting better every day, but they’re making mistakes, which I would expect they would.”

The Blue Waves will feature senior Mike Drexel and junior Ethan Greenidge at the tackle positions. Senior Michael Curtis will start at center. Shay said Curtis was “a nice surprise at camp.”

Senior Ryan Harkin will start at guard. The other guard position is still up for grabs between three players, Shay said.

On the other side, senior Jonathan Lee, Ethan Greenidge and Drexel will play defensive tackle.

Sophomore Tyrese Kerr — the only other 10th-grader on the roster in addition to Moore — will play defensive end along with Harkin.

While Von Bommel anchors the linebacker core, the Blue Waves’ depth at the position was weakened from injuries and academic issues. Junior Raheem Brown will start at middle linebacker opposite Von Bommel.

Moore and senior Taiheem McKay will both start at outside linebacker.

On special teams Czelatka will handle the punting duties. Moore will return kicks — giving him triple duty as a sophomore. The Blue Waves begin the year without a bona fide kicker.

As defending champs and the No. 3 seed in Division II, the Blue Waves will face a challenging schedule, starting with Thursday’s opener, a rematch of last year’s county final.

It’ll be an uphill climb back to the top — no team has repeated as champion in Division II since Bellport won in ’05 and ’06 —but the Blue Waves are ready for the challenge.

“They believe they’re going to be the best team ever, so I like that attitude,” Shay said.


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.”