01/01/14 7:00am
01/01/2014 7:00 AM
JOE WERKMEISTER PHOTO | The Riverhead Blue Waves celebrate their second straight Division II county championship Friday night after a thrilling 21-14 win over East Islip at Stony Brook University.

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

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

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

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

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

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

11/23/13 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

03/22/13 7:58pm
03/22/2013 7:58 PM

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Riverhead junior Ryan Hubbard scored a career-high seven goals Friday against Deer Park.

BLUE WAVES 14, FALCONS 1

The scorebook for the Riverhead boys lacrosse team lists six ovals next to each player’s name to account for their goals scored in a game. Before the midway point of the third quarter Friday afternoon, junior Ryan Hubbard already had all six ovals penciled in.

When Hubbard buried his seventh goal on an uncontested run to the Deer Park cage after a turnover, the rout was well on for the Blue Waves in a 14-1 season-opening victory.

The seven goals marked a career high for Hubbard, who had six in a win over William Floyd last year. It could have been even more for him Friday, but with the game comfortably in hand, Hubbard and many of the other starters played sparingly in the second half.

“He finished his shots,” said Riverhead coach Victor Guadagnino. “In the scrimmages we had earlier he was getting those looks and not finishing.”

Hubbard added two assists as well. Senior Ryan Bitzer was the only other Blue Wave with multiple goals with three.

The non-league victory was a final tune-up for the Blue Waves before they open the league season against perennial powerhouse Ward Melville at home Wednesday. It’ll be the first ever meeting between the two schools, a sign of how far Riverhead’s program has come in recent years.

While the Falcons are nowhere near Ward Melville’s level, the Blue Waves came out sharp, making all the little plays that against elite teams will be essential to stay in the game.

The Blue Waves hustled for ground balls, forced turnovers, won faceoffs and controlled possession.

DANIEL DE MATO PHOTO | Riverhead defenseman Jaron Greenidge clears the ball against Deer Park.

“When you’re playing teams that are above you, you got to do that to stay in the game,” Guadagnino said. “We’re practicing the stuff we need to do to get ready for Ward Melville on Wednesday.”

The lopsided win allowed Guadagnino to get everyone some action and two players got their first varsity goal: sophomore Mark Andrejack and freshman Ben Weir. Freshman Austin Fitzpatrick, who started on attack, picked up his first varsity assist.

Guadagnino said he was impressed with the play of another freshman, long pole middie Blake Carrara.

“He was all over the place swarming like crazy,” Guadagnino said.

Guadagnino said it was a valuable experience for the younger players to get some experience before being thrown into the fire of league play.

“Now they get one under their belt and we get into this brutal league schedule and let’s go,” he said.

While the Blue Waves had little trouble rolling past Deer Park, Guadagnino cautioned his players there’s still plenty of area’s that need improvement.

One key is fluidity on offense, he said.

“Constant moving,” he said. “When you’re playing a lower team or not having to worry about the score you start standing still. We got to keep the motion. The top teams in our division just play fast and as we’re getting better we need to learn how to play fast.”

Riverhead had a flair for the dramatic Friday. Twice they scored a buzzer-beating goal to end a quarter.

Bitzer buried a shot just as the second quarter ended that made it 8-1 Blue Waves. Weir scored his first varsity goal in the final second of the third quarter off an assist from Mark Huysman.

Riverhead goalkeeper Alex Panagakos had an easy day between the pipes. He made one save and watched the second half from the sideline as John Roca closed the game out. Roca needed to make only one save as well to keep the Falcons scoreless.

joew@timesreview.com