08/18/11 2:33pm
08/18/2011 2:33 PM

BOB LIEPA PHOTO | Riverhead Coach Leif Shay and his coaching staff pay attention to details in preseason training camp.

This isn’t summer camp, that’s for sure.

That is one of the things players learn very quickly. True, it is a camp held in the summer, but that is about where the similarities end.

Preseason training camp for the Riverhead High School football team isn’t so much about fun and games. It’s about players toiling and sweating under the glaring sun, pushing themselves to exhaustion, fighting for positions, and preparing for the upcoming season. It will not be mistaken for life at a holiday resort, that’s for sure.

Welcome to Camp Shay.

Like all camps, Coach Leif Shay’s camp has rules, rules that place a premium on discipline.

Cardinal Rule No. 1: Thou shalt not cut corners.

A reporter learned that lesson a few years ago when, following a preseason practice, he walked across the corner of an athletic field while the team headed for the locker room. Shay made the reporter turn back and walk around the corner of the field, and that was someone who was not a team member!

“No cutting corners, no coming late, very disciplined,” Reggie Moore, a senior middle linebacker and H-back, said following the team’s first preseason practice on Thursday morning. “He’s a very disciplined man, and that’s how we’re going to be as a team.”

And there are other no-nos, the violation of which has consequences — essentially more work for the offender and possibly his teammates. Jumping offside during a drill is discouraged by extra pushups or getups (in which players fall to the ground and then quickly hop to their feet) as punishment. If a player shows up late to practice, the team does extra running. Practice concludes with a series of 40-yard sprints run by players grouped by their class. Ten sprints must be deemed acceptable by the coaching staff. If a player takes off before a whistle, steps on the starting line or doesn’t run hard enough, that sprint must be run over again.

BOB LIEPA PHOTO | Riverhead senior Kurt Carter made a catch during the team's first preseason practice.

“You step on a line, you got to go back to zero,” said Kurt Carter, a senior free safety/wide receiver in his fourth preseason camp under Shay. “You jump offsides, you go back to zero. If you don’t know what grade you’re in, you go back to zero.”

That isn’t all.

“Don’t take your helmet off, I’ll tell you that much,” Carter said. “They’ll get on you for that.”

A good rule of thumb for players to follow is that once they walk onto the practice field at Riverhead High School, they’re on. That brings us to another Camp Shay rule: no walking.

“Don’t walk anywhere,” Carter said. “You don’t walk on that football field. The only time you can walk is if you’re off the field and you’re getting water. That’s just about it.”

Moore, an all-county player who led the team with 75 tackles and four and a half sacks last year, said, “It’s all business when you walk on the field.”

There is a method to the madness. With attention paid to the smallest details, the hope is that it will eliminate bad habits, reinforce good ones, and help the team in games.

“When kids get tired, the first thing that goes is their mental focus, and we want to make sure that they’re always focused, even when they’re exhausted,” said Shay, who is in his 14th year as Riverhead’s head coach. “A method to the madness? I don’t know. It’s madness, that’s for sure.”

And an education for young players new to the scene and unaccustomed to the ways of high school football.

“It’s a little bit of a culture shock,” Shay said. “The coaches are getting after you.”

Not all players are happy campers, though. Shay said two players left the team less than 10 minutes into the first practice after they showed up late and the whole team was punished for it. “I never had it happen that quick,” he said. “It usually takes a day or two, so, yeah, that is a record.”

Who is to argue with Shay’s methods? He is a proven winner. His career record speaks for itself: 70-43 (.619).

Last year the Blue Waves went 2-6 — their first losing season since 1998, Shay’s first year in charge of the team — and saw their string of four straight playoff appearances snapped.

Shay knows full well the value of preseason training camp, which he said is the most important part of the season. “You’re establishing your foundation,” he said. “It’s like building a house. If you don’t put together a good foundation, the thing’s going to collapse.”

The Blue Waves will hold two-a-day practices for 10 days. Shay expects hitting to start on Monday.

All of this is being done with upcoming dates in mind. On Aug. 31 the Blue Waves will participate in a four-way scrimmage with the Westhampton Beach Hurricanes, the Center Moriches Red Devils and the Sachem North Flaming Arrows. On Sept. 2 they will have a game scrimmage at Sachem East. This all leads to Sept. 10, when the seventh-seeded Blue Waves will face the top-seeded team in Suffolk County Division II, the East Islip Redmen, in their season opener.

Between now and then a great deal will be done. “A lot of learning, a lot of tears, a lot of hurt feelings, a lot of blood and sweat,” Shay said, “but in the end we’re all going to come together and give it a great year.”

The Blue Waves have about 20 seniors, but not a lot of playing experience. They do have more experience in the skill positions than they had last year, though. Players like quarterback Ryan Bitzer, tailback Jeremiah Cheatom and outside linebacker/tailback Charles Bartlett help. That is why the team plans to make best use of the speed that it has.

“We got to know that we can press the tempo,” Shay said. “We got to utilize our strength, which is our speed this year. We have to know that we can do things very fast and do them correctly with no discipline problems.”

Anthony Stimpfel, a senior offensive tackle and defensive tackle, said: “The new guys got to understand that they got to work hard if they’re going to be out here. It’s tough, but we work for a reason, to get better. This is really important, training on a mental level as well as a physical level.”

“We have to become a team,” he continued. “We have a lot of stars, but we have to come together and become a team. We definitely have some good talent out here.”

During two-a-days, the team practices in the morning, and players have several hours to rest and recover before returning for the evening practice session. But it isn’t the first day of practices that is as telling as the second one, said Carter. “Tomorrow morning, you’ll see who’s tough and who’s not,” he said. “We’ll find out.”

Carter did have advice for newcomers: “Come back tomorrow morning ready to work.”

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07/20/11 1:18am
07/20/2011 1:18 AM

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Reggie Moore's quickness on the court is an asset for Riverhead.

The authoritative, loud voice barking instructions from the Riverhead High School bench doesn’t belong to a coach. Actually, it’s Reggie Moore. Whether it be from the bench or on the basketball court, Moore does a lot of talking. And when he’s playing, spectators are undoubtedly talking about him.

With Moore, you see, there is a lot to talk about.

Although Moore has been a varsity player for the Riverhead Blue Waves since he was a freshman, this is the first time that the senior guard has played for Riverhead’s summer league team, and he has been looking good. In fact, the summer league team’s coach, Elwood Lamb, says Moore looks better than ever.

That is encouraging for the Blue Waves, who lost three quality guards from last season. Lamb’s son, Elwood Lamb III, as well as Ben Edmund and Rodney Rollins have graduated.

The younger Lamb left open the point guard position, which Ryan Bitzer and Quinn Funn have been sharing this summer. Coach Lamb envisions Moore being used more as a shooting guard or even a small forward.

One thing is for sure: Moore is taking preparations for the 2011-12 school season seriously. He has been doing speed training, lifting weights and working on his jump shot. “I go hard, man,” he said. “I’m ready to go.”

The results show. His 5-foot-10, 180-pound frame looks fit.

Moore’s quickness on the court is an undoubted asset, as is his commitment to defense and communication on defense.

“I’m like the energy guy,” he said. “I talk it up. Defense is the main thing to me in basketball. That’s what wins games.”

A typical example of what Moore can do with his speed was seen Tuesday night. He made a game-high seven steals to go with 14 points and three assists in a 45-40 win over the Sachem North Flaming Arrows in a Town of Brookhaven Summer League game at Riverhead High School.

“Reggie was an animal tonight,” Bitzer, who turned in a game-high 18 points, said after game.

Coach Lamb was impressed by what he saw from Moore. “He looked good tonight,” Lamb said. “Seven steals, that’s pretty impressive. If he sees the ball in his lane, he’s going to try and get it.”

Moore was also whistled for four personal fouls. That comes with the aggression package.

“I would say Reggie has improved from last year to now,” Lamb said. “He’s more aggressive. He’s looking to put the ball on the floor and go to the basket more. Sometimes he gets a little too aggressive. He commits those stupid fouls.”

Moore said he has spent time on his shooting, which he has more confidence in. All in all, he is anticipating a fruitful senior season.

“I feel that I got smarter on the basketball court,” he said. “I developed more of an offensive game than I had last year. It’s going to be very interesting to see what we do this year, very interesting.”

Lamb said, “I think he’s a better defender than he is an offensive player, but his offense is starting to look a lot better than it did last year.”

Another encouraging sign for the Blue Waves (5-2) was that they won Tuesday’s game in large part by taking care of the ball. They turned it over 10 times to Sachem North’s 22. That helped Riverhead prevail despite being outrebounded by 24-12.

Riverhead fell behind only once at 35-33 on a basket by Brendan Chetuck, but soon took the lead again on one of Bitzer’s two three-point shots.

Still, Sachem North (3-4) stayed close. After a baseline move by Chetuck resulted in a layup, cutting Riverhead’s lead to 42-40, Bitzer hit two free throws and Tim Clement sank another for the final five-point margin.

In the game’s closing moments, Bitzer blocked a shot by Jayson Prudente (13 points) and Riverhead’s Markim Austin dribbled out the final seconds.

Sachem North lost one of its players, Zach Dellecave, who appeared to have injured his left knee and was helped off the court 3 minutes 15 seconds into the contest. He later walked out of the gym under his own power.

Strangely enough, two Riverhead players fell at virtually the same place on the court. Riverhead’s Jake Maccagli and Clement apparently collided and both went down. They had to be helped to the team bench. Clement returned to the game shortly after, but Maccagli did not. The extent of his injury was not immediately known.

In the end, the Blue Waves got the result they were looking for, and Moore looked happy.

“I don’t like to lose,” he said, smiling. “I like to win.”

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