09/16/14 9:24pm
09/16/2014 9:24 PM
Riverhead's Jonathan Perez rises to head a corner kick while being challenged by Newfield's Connor Timmonds (10). (Credit: Garret Meade)

Riverhead’s Brian Elejalde rises to head a corner kick while being challenged by Newfield’s Connor Timmonds (10). (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)


This definitely was a tough one for the Riverhead High School boys soccer team.

The Blue Waves certainly had more scoring chances, but Newfield made the most of its chances and recorded a 3-1 Suffolk County League III victory in Selden on Tuesday afternoon. (more…)

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.”


09/21/13 1:26am
09/21/2013 1:26 AM


Sooner or later, sophomore forward Phillip Barabanov knows he’s going to get his goals.

“Sometimes you can miss and sometimes it can go in,” he said. “If you just keep on going to the goal, you’ll get it.”

The same can be said of the Riverhead High School boys soccer coach, Lamine Traore. Sooner or later, he knows his Blue Waves will begin winning some games.

“My biggest problem is like here,” Traore said, pointing to his head. “If they are able to get into their head, then all will be good. We have very good players. They just need to learn to trust themselves, leave all the little things that are going on the side and just focus on soccer and play.”

For now, the Blues (0-3, 0-3) are enduring a difficult start to the season. On Friday, they suffered their third consecutive loss, a 4-0 home defeat to Newfield in a Suffolk County League III game.

Senior forward Jake Barros led the way, scoring 2 goals and assisting on two others in a virtuoso performance for the Wolverines (4-1, 3-0).

Traore, a high-scoring striker and member of Dowling College’s 2006 NCAA Division II championship team, felt Riverhead lacked confidence in itself and its abilities.

“You saw how we played. You saw how we dominated the game [at times],” he said. “The only thing that we have to change now is to put in their heads that they can beat those teams.

“We have to put in their head that they are the same level. There is no big gap any more. We play as they play, even play better. The big problem is that they’re more confident than we are.”

The course of the game could have been changed after Dale McNevin converted a left-wing cross by Barros 3 minutes 52 seconds into the match for a 1-0 lead. A little more than three minutes later, Barabanov chipped goalkeeper Sean Kelly and hit the crossbar.

Barabanov said he thought the ball “was going to go in at first. I thought I was going to get a second chance, but it just rolled away.”

That close encounter started a frustrating afternoon for the Blue Waves, who came close on several occasions, but could not solve Kelly. Barabanov fired three other shots on target that Kelly saved.

“Yeah, it usually happens,” he said. “I just have to keep my head up and try to do it again.”

Riverhead had some other shots on goal that Kelly (5 saves) cleaned up.

“Communication is part of it,” Traore said. “As a striker, you can’t give up when you miss one goal. You’ve got to keep going. If you miss one goal, it’s like, ‘O.K., it’s over.’ That’s when you have to step up and go. The more you believe in yourself, the more chances you’re giving yourself to finish. Once you put your head down, it’s not going to work.”

It worked quite well for Barros, a returning All-County player. He finished a dream week in which he scored 8 goals, which can be considered a good season for some strikers. He connected for his first career hat trick in a 5-1 victory at Centereach and added another trey in a 3-2 home triumph versus West Islip.

“I’m really happy,” he said. “I’m just glad the team got three wins and opened the season 3-0.”

Barros converted a penalty kick with 31:04 remaining in first half and added a second goal off a McNevin feed with 12:30 to go in the half. He turned playmaker again, setting up Eric Oakley with 35:59 left in the match.

Some cynics might say Barros underachieved Friday, failing to reach a week of a hat trick of hat tricks, but Newfield coach Jamie Santiago felt otherwise.

“I thought today was his best game because he had a hand in every goal,” he said. “He’s had a great week for us. He’s looking to do great things the entire season. We’re relying on him. That’s why he’s our captain and our leader.”

Santiago felt the Blue Waves had a good showing themselves.

“They were a tough, physical team,” he said. “They did give us a test. I wasn’t disappointed in them at all. They gave us a good fight. We have a couple of players who can make a difference and that’s what they did.”

Barabanov, who hopes to be a difference-maker someday, said Riverhead has to forget the start of the season.

“Don’t concede any goals,” he said. “Just forget about the three losses and keep on winning.”

10/13/12 6:48pm
10/13/2012 6:48 PM

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead quarterback Ryan Bitzer runs up the left side for a 33-yard touchdown to put the Blue Waves ahead 7-0.


The memory was etched into the minds of every Riverhead player. It wasn’t just that Newfield beat the Blue Waves twice on their home field last year, including the playoffs, it was the way the Wolverines tried to embarrass them.

In the two games Newfield outscored Riverhead 86-19, a shellacking that fueled the Blue Waves throughout the offseason.

“That was fresh in our mind,” said Riverhead coach Leif Shay. “We wanted to show them how we can win with class.”

“We came out and had to show them who Riverhead is,” added linebacker Nick Ross.

Mission accomplished.

In a defensive battle, the Blue Waves rode their hard-hitting defense to a 17-7 win on homecoming at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field before a packed house on a cool, sunny afternoon. The pivotal Division II matchup gave the Blue Waves (4-2) a much needed boost in the standings with Newfield entering the game with an identical 3-2 record and one spot behind them in the power rankings.

“We needed this game,” Shay said. “If we have any postseason aspirations, we really needed this game. And I think our kids sensed that, too.”

The Blue Waves expected a physical game from the Wolverines and they were up to the task on both ends of the ball. While the Wolverines did tally 322 yards of offense, Riverhead’s defense held strong when it needed to at the most critical times.

ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead linebacker Nick Ross brings down Newfield halfback Terrell Perryman.

The Wolverines got the ball late in the fourth quarter trailing by a touchdown. After picking up one first down to advance to their own 43-yard line, the Blue Waves’ defense came through with a huge stop to force Newfield to turn the ball over on downs.

On fourth-and-3 from midfield, defensive end Joseph Napoli and linebacker Matt Hejmej converged on running back Terrell Perryman as he took a toss to the left.

Riverhead halfback Jeremiah Cheatom (196 yards on 21 carries) marched the Blue Waves down inside the 10, setting up Devrim Kuchuk’s 23-yard field goal to ice the game with 1:02 left.

It was the field goal of the season for Kuchuk, who had an earlier attempt blocked.

“I figured I had to give him another shot,” Shay said. “I’m happy for him that he did it on homecoming.”

In six games now the Blue Waves are giving up 12.8 points per game, a stark contrast to last season when opposing teams racked up 31.7 per game.

“We’re more controlled,” Ross said. “We do what we’re taught to do. We don’t do extra to make ourself look better. We play as a team and as a group.”

Newfield presents a unique challenge for a defense with the number of players the team can throw out there. Nine different players carried the ball against Riverhead and the Wolverines rotated two quarterbacks, both of whom could throw or run at times.

Perryman was the main carrier out of the backfield and rushed for 83 yards on 20 carries.

“The key defensively was our outside linebackers to stop their run,” Cheatom said. “We did a great job.”

Shay said the defense came down to preparing for three basic plays: toss, blast and trap.

“We tell them, everything else is just bells and whistles,” he said. “It doesn’t matter all these shifts. It’s toss, blast and trap.”

Linebacker Mike Von Bommel had a big game and delivered the hit of the game when he leveled a Newfield receiver on a third-and-long to force an incomplete pass late in the third quarter.

The Wolverines were forced to punt, setting up a Riverhead touchdown.

The Blue Waves took over on the Newfield 46. Cheatom got the carry on first down and found space in the middle by cutting back twice to elude defenders. He rushed the ball all the way into the end zone and with the extra point, the Blue Waves had a 14-0 lead in the final seconds of the third quarter.

“I made a mistake earlier in the game fumbling the ball, but I put it in the past and did an excellent job the next drive,” Cheatom said.

Riverhead got off to a slow start, tallying only seven yards of offense in the first quarter. But the offense got rolling in the second quarter, although it didn’t lead to any points. The Blue Waves got deep into Newfield territory twice in the quarter without converting.

To start the second half Riverhead received the ball and finally broke through with a 33-yard touchdown run from quarterback Ryan Bitzer. On fourth-and-3, Bitzer faked a handoff and ran a bootleg up the left sideline for the score to put Riverhead ahead 7-0.

The only score for Newfield came on a 13-play, 80-yard drive in the fourth quarter. Joe Feliciano scored on a three-yard run for the Newfield touchdown.

With all the hoopla surrounding homecoming, the week leading up to the game is often coaches’ nightmare.

“I hope people had a great time, but I’m glad it’s over,” Shay said.


ROBERT O’ROURK PHOTO | Riverhead halfback Jeremiah Cheatom races 46 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-0.

10/13/12 1:45pm

BILL LANDON FILE PHOTO | Riverhead receiver Quinn Funn leads the Blue Waves against Newfield this afternoon.

Riverhead (3-2) vs. Newfield (3-2)

Division II

Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field

It’s homecoming in Riverhead and the Blue Waves find themselves facing the team that ended their season a year ago in Newfield. The Blue Waves come into the game off a tough loss on the road at East Islip, which dropped their Division II record to 3-2. It leaves the Blue Waves little room for error down the stretch if they hope to secure a top-four seed in the playoffs and host a playoff game.

Newfield was known for its toughness last year en route to winning the Class II Long Island Championship. The good news for the Blue Waves is they won’t have to contend with runners Julian Santiago and Mike Silva, who torched Riverhead on the ground last year in the playoffs. Both players graduated, but the Wolverines still feature a strong running game behind Terrel Perryman and Joe Feliciano.

The Wolverines come into the game off a 14-7 loss at home against Smithtown East. Newfield gave up all 14 points in the second half after taking a 7-0 lead into halftime.

To follow all of today’s action, click on the live blog below as former Riverhead Blue Wave Mike Hejmej provides all the updates:

01/21/12 3:48pm
01/21/2012 3:48 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River point guard Kevin Turano fighting for a rebound with Newfield's James Manginelli.


Some point guards can be fiery. And then there are others like Kevin Turano. Calm, easygoing, even-tempered.

“Very unflappable,” said Kevin Culhane, the Shoreham-Wading River boys basketball coach.

Turano is in his second varsity season with the Wildcats, but first as a starter. He hardly got any playing time last season as a backup to Kevin Davis, who was an all-county player. But Turano evidently picked up a thing or two in his apprenticeship, which is bearing fruit.

When last season ended, Davis looked forward to high school graduation, and Turano had a new job awaiting him.

“I said, ‘Kevin, this is your team now,’ ” Culhane recalled. “And I said, ‘Go enjoy it for two years.’ I said, ‘You’re going to have ups and downs and I’m going to be in your ear chirping.’ I said, ‘You have to understand that, you know, it’s not personal. I want you to get better,’ and he has. He’s got a pretty thick skin.”

Turano’s cool demeanor came in handy for him and his teammates Saturday when the Wildcats won a non-league game against Newfield that had turned into a free-throw shooting contest down the stretch. The Wildcats sank 9 of 10 foul shots in the final 1 minute 46 seconds to hold off the visiting Wolverines and wrap up a well-earned 62-58 victory.

“We needed a win,” said Turano, whose team had lost its previous three games and four of its past five.

Shoreham needs to win four of its five remaining games in order to earn a playoff spot.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River's John Kovach splitting Newfield's Darrin Kasier (24) and Willie Jackson while attacking the basket.

John Kovach went 6 for 6 from the foul line for Shoreham during the final 1:46 and finished the game going 12 of 14, with a game-high 24 points and 9 rebounds. Turano recorded 16 points, 5 assists, 4 steals and 2 rebounds.

Rafael Rodriguez was the high scorer for Newfield with 11 points. Jarrell Cowell added 10 points and Jeremy Ducker had 6 assists for the Wolverines.

Shoreham (6-7, 2-5 Suffolk County League VI) never trailed, although Newfield (1-10, 1-5 League III) twice tied the score, the last time at 48-48 on a three-point shot by Ducker in the fourth quarter.

It was around that time when Culhane said he turned to his bench and said, “Let’s see what we’re made of.”

His team responded. After a pair of free throws by Kovach gave Shoreham a 58-55 lead with 9.8 seconds left, Culhane adopted the strategy of intentionally fouling Newfield and sending the Wolverines to the foul line rather than giving them a chance to shoot a potential tying three-pointer.

It worked.

Willie Jackson made two free throws to pull Newfield to within a point at 58-57 with 7.8 seconds to go, but then Turano responded in kind, restoring Shoreham’s three-point lead with 6.8 seconds remaining.

Shoreham sent Newfield’s Darrin Kasier to the foul line with 5.2 seconds to go and the Wolverines in the double bonus. Kasier, who returned to the game after taking a hard fall on his right elbow while grabbing a rebound in the third quarter, made the first shot, but a lane violation was called against Newfield on the second attempt.

Kovach’s final two free throws with 3.5 seconds left sealed the result.

“Turano buried them,” Culhane said. “He and Kovach, that’s a lot of intestinal fortitude. I give them a lot of credit. We work on a lot of pressure foul shooting, but still, it’s a little different in games than it is in practice. I tell you, that was a clutch performance.”

Both teams shot high percentages from the field — 53.7 percent for Newfield and 60.6 percent for Shoreham. But Shoreham’s 18-for-22 count from the free-throw line made a difference, along with Turano’s play.

“I thought Turano played probably the best game of his short high school career,” Culhane said. The coach added, “He was a major reason why we won today.”

Culhane knows something about the point guard position, having played point guard for Sachem when he was in high school. It’s a position that carries a lot of responsibility. A point guard is often seen as the extension of a coach on the court, calling the offense and running plays.

Shoreham power forward/center Chris Mahoney said Turano has “a ton of pressure on him, and as a junior, I think he’s doing well above what he’s expected to do. I’m really proud of him. He has the ability to take on multiple defenders and still work the ball around and set up plays.”

Not only that, but Turano kept his cool when the game heated up.

Said Turano, “You got to stay calm at all times.”


10/30/11 2:14pm
10/30/2011 2:14 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead's Kurt Carter intercepted a pass at the Blue Waves' 2-yard line before being tackled by Newfield's Ron Denig on the final play of the first half.


Aside from playoff seedings, some might have wondered how much meaning this final regular-season football game had. Those people evidently weren’t wearing Newfield uniforms.

Newfield and Riverhead knew beforehand that they are both headed to the postseason. The only thing is, now Newfield has a boost of confidence and perhaps a mental edge. Using their physicality and fine-tuned running game, the Wolverines hammered Riverhead, 37-0, on Sunday.

“That was the idea, send a message,” Newfield running back/linebacker Ron Denig said. “You want to be rolling going into the playoffs.”

And how is this for an interesting tidbit? It appears likely that these same two teams will return to Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field in Riverhead in six days for a Suffolk County Division II qualifying round game. Both head coaches, asked about the possibility of a rematch with a lot more at stake, didn’t have much to say.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Julian Santiago, one of six Newfield ball carriers who totaled 279 rushing yards, was pursued by Riverhead's Nick Ross.

“It is what it is,” said Riverhead coach Leif Shay.

Newfield coach Joe Piccinnini said, “Hey, look, at this time of the year, whoever you play, you play.”

If Newfield-Riverhead II does happen, Newfield (5-3) will have the satisfaction of knowing it not only beat Riverhead (6-2) once, but that it can run the ball against the Blue Waves. The Wolverines did it time and time again on Sunday.

The game had been postponed from the day before because rain had made the field unplayable. But Sunday’s weather also impacted the game. The wind and cold didn’t suit Riverhead’s passing game one bit. Meanwhile, bigger Newfield enjoyed great success with its running game. Six ball carriers ran up 279 rushing yards for Newfield. Four of those players — Denig, Zach Powell, Julian Santiago and Mike Silva — had touchdown runs. Silva also ran in a pair of two-point conversions and completed a pass to Santiago for another.

Denig (93 yards, 11 carries) and Powell (90 yards, 13 carries) led the way. Even Karl Rindfliesch, a 6-foot-2, 270-pound lineman, ran four times for 18 yards.

Newfield ran the ball 47 times and passed it only five times.

“We are who we are,” Piccinnini said. “We are a physical football team.” Speaking of his players, Piccinnini said. “They love to hit.”

Denig agreed. “That’s our bread and butter, hitting,” he said.

It’s a style that contrasts dramatically with Riverhead’s speed and finesse.

Although Piccinnini might have grimaced over the 110 yards worth of penalties his team was assessed from 12 thrown flags, he had to like the way Newfield moved the ball well, converting eight of 11 third-down plays for first downs.

But it was Newfield’s defense that supplied the fifth and final touchdown. Sangye Tsakorshiku collected a tipped pass by Ryan Bitzer and returned the interception 45 yards for a score with 3 minutes 45 seconds left to play.

Newfield might have struck for another score had not Riverhead’s Kurt Carter picked off a pass at his team’s 2-yard line on the final play of the first half.

“We’re going to use this as a wake-up call,” Shay said. “We’re not a very tough group of kids. We have to get tougher. We actually blocked pretty well at times. We just didn’t make plays when we needed to.”

Newfield’s defense surrendered only 144 yards to shut out Riverhead’s high-octane offense for the first time this year. The Blue Waves were 2 of 10 on third-down plays. James Manginelli made nine tackles and Tom Diubaldo had eight for Newfield.

Newfield, seeded No. 2 in the division before the season, is surely no pushover. The Wolverines went through a stretch in which they lost three straight games to West Babylon, East Islip and North Babylon, but have since righted the ship.

Was Newfield underestimated after those three losses?

“Underrated, overrated, I’m not really too sure,” Denig said. “We did have that three-game losing streak, you know, where I’m sure a lot of people lost faith. … Critics are always going to talk, though, say we’re not tough enough, we’re not big enough to win.”

The Blue Waves shouldn’t be among them, though, not after what they experienced.

“We had a bad day,” said Reggie Moore, one of Riverhead’s 22 seniors who were recognized during a pregame ceremony before their final home regular-season game. Moore, who was involved in a team-leading nine tackles, said, “It’s a little disappointing, but we’re going to keep our head up and keep fighting.”


10/29/11 1:28pm
10/29/2011 1:28 PM

Today was to be the final day of the high school football regular season in Suffolk County. Thanks to some persistent rain, though, the season has been extended at least another day.

The Division II game between Newfield and Riverhead that was scheduled for today at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field in Riverhead has been postponed. Riverhead coach Leif Shay said the field was unplayable because of rain.

The game has been rescheduled for Sunday at 11 a.m. Fifth-place Newfield is 4-3, and second-place Riverhead is 6-1. It is the final regular-season game for both teams.