It wasn’t Kevin Hutchinson Day on Saturday, but it might as well have been. What was clear, however, was that it certainly wasn’t the Riverhead Blue Waves’ day.
Hutchinson, the East Islip Redmen’s senior quarterback/defensive back, did just about everything in his football team’s 19-13 defeat of the Blue Waves at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field in Riverhead . He threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Joe Modica, kicked four field goals, and intercepted a pass in a Suffolk County Division II game that East Islip (4-1) controlled from the beginning.
“It was a good team effort all around, defense, offense,” Hutchinson said. “We knew Riverhead was going to come out strong. They have a good coaching staff, a good team. They always come physical, play physical and come tough. We just did what we had to do.”
Last year East Islip ousted Riverhead in the division semifinals. If the Blue Waves were looking for payback, they fell well short of that goal. The loss dropped Riverhead to 1-4, a record the Blue Waves haven’t seen in years.
“It does seem strange to me,” Riverhead defensive lineman Jaylin Jeffries said. “ Riverhead always had a good program. I don’t think we’re a bad team. We’re just as good as every other Riverhead team. We just got to learn how to play a whole game, act as a family and go hard the whole time.”
After blowing a 17-0 halftime lead and losing to the Bellport Clippers a week earlier, Riverhead played a dismal first half against East Islip. The Blue Waves left the field at halftime trailing by 13-0 after a fumble enabled Hutchinson to boot a 33-yard field goal on the last play of the first half. It was only 96 seconds earlier when Hutchinson kicked a 35-yarder. Hutchinson added kicks from 40 and 20 yards in the second half.
It was Hutchinson’s pass to a wide open Modica, who went untouched down the right side and into the end zone, that opened the scoring with 1:03 to go in the first quarter. Hutchinson completed 6 of 9 passes for 120 yards.
“We were just nonstop,” said Michael Higgins, East Islip’s bruising bull of a fullback/linebacker who ran the ball 12 times for 82 hard yards.
The East Islip defense held Riverhead to only 44 yards of offense in the first half. Tyler Rigo was involved in a team-leading seven tackles, Higgins was in on six tackles and Kyle Moller defended five passes for the Redmen. A number of dropped passes by the Blue Waves didn’t help their cause, either. East Islip generated 352 yards in total offense and maintained possession for 32:29.
“We’re just not putting together 48 minutes of quality football,” Riverhead Coach Leif Shay said. He added: “We’re starting a lot of kids for the first time. It’s not like we returned a ton of starters. We have to go through the learning process. Everybody goes through it. First you got to lose big, then you got to lose close, and then you’re going to win close and then you win big. It’s a cycle.”
The Redmen built a 16-0 lead before Riverhead pulled back a pair of touchdowns on runs of 11 and five yards by Charles Bartlett in the second half. Bartlett finished with 93 yards from 18 carries.
Riverhead also suffered a loss within a loss. Kurt Carter, a junior who is a two-way starter at wide receiver and defensive back, was carted off the field with an unspecified injury with 6 minutes 30 seconds left in the first half. Shay said he didn’t know what happened to Carter and was awaiting a doctor’s report.
Reggie Moore was a bright spot on defense for Riverhead , making eight tackles, including a sack. On the whole, though, something was missing. Many of the Blue Waves took college admission tests in the morning, and Jeffries sensed that the team wasn’t as excited as it usually is during pregame warmups.
“Their minds weren’t really on the game,” Jeffries said. “What can you say? We just got to come back, you know, win the last three games, make playoffs.”
This defeat can’t help Riverhead ‘s playoff prospects, but Shay wasn’t looking that far ahead.
“We got to win some games,” he said. “We can’t worry about the playoffs right now. We just have to win a couple of games.”