Football: Down by 17-0, Bellport rallies, stuns Riverhead

This was one that got away from the Riverhead Blue Waves.

Riverhead built a 17-0 halftime lead against the visiting Bellport Clippers in a Suffolk County Division II football game on Saturday afternoon. But time and again, the young and inexperienced Blue Waves made mistakes. Instead of putting the game away, Riverhead ‘s miscues, and some questionable calls by the Blue Waves’ coaching staff in the second half, allowed the Clippers to hang around.

Finally, in the fourth quarter, the Bellport offense came to life as quarterback Justin Honce twice connected with wide receiver Alejandro Morales on long touchdown passes, leading Bellport to a stunning 20-17 victory.

Trailing by 17-14 with 2 minutes 36 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the scrambling Honce double pumped and hit Morales over the middle for a 17-yard touchdown pass.

Riverhead (1-3) opened the door for the Clippers (2-2) to score when Riverhead quarterback Ryan Bitzer tried an up the middle screen pass that was easily intercepted by Bellport lineman Ryan Sloan, who returned the ball to Riverhead ‘s 22-yard line. Three plays later, Honce hit Morales with the winning touchdown pass.

Earlier in the quarter, Honce had found Morales streaking down the left sideline for a 52-yard scoring strike.

The Blue Waves had one last chance. But on fourth-and-1 from the Riverhead 45 with 1:18 remaining, the Blue Waves ran a Wildcat play with Kurt Carter handing off to Charles Bartlett, who was swarmed by tacklers, well short of the first down.

Riverhead had taken a 3-0 lead on Esteban Aarp’s 33-yard field goal with 7:34 left in the first quarter. The Blue Waves’ lead grew to 10-0 with 1:02 remaining in the quarter when Bitzer lofted a pass to Rodney Rollins down the right sidelines for an 88-yard touchdown. With 28 seconds remaining in the half, Bitzer hit Rollins with a pass in the left corner of the end zone, giving Riverhead a 17-0 lead.

Bellport’s comeback began early in the third quarter, as Armand Correa burst 47 yards down the left sideline for a touchdown. That set the stage for Honce’s pair of touchdown passes to Morales in the fourth quarter, lifting the Clippers to the thrilling win.

Asked about some of the play calls and the no-huddle offense that at times seemed to slow down the Blue Waves’ momentum because it took so long for the coaches to call the plays, Riverhead Coach Leif Shay said: “All the kids played hard. We are proud of our kids.”

Midway through the second quarter the Blue Waves shot themselves in the foot. Bartlett had a long touchdown run nullified by a holding penalty.

Bellport’s comeback began early in the third quarter with Correa’s touchdown run. The momentum was beginning to shift to the Clippers as their defense put more and more pressure on Bitzer.

Riverhead ‘s defense dodged a bullet early in the fourth quarter when Carter intercepted a hurried pass by Honce at the Riverhead 9. But the Blue Waves’ offense quickly went three and out.