This story was originally published in the Nov. 13, 1986 issue of The Riverhead News-Review.
RIVERHEAD — The big one almost got away. But in the end, Riverhead’s football team reeled in a slippery Westhampton team, using Carl Smith as bait and all the tackles they could muster to forge a 33-14 win over the Hurricanes. The field itself resembled a big, muddy pond as rain fell steadily through the entire contest, forcing both teams to concentrate primarily on ground attacks.
Taking a page from the Jets’ and Giants’ linescores this week, the Blue Waves built up a semi-comfortable lead and watched it suddenly narrow. At one point in the first quarter, Riverhead was up, 20-0. Only minutes later, on the other side of the half, the score was 20-14, with the Hurricanes threatening more damage.
“They got within one touchdown,” recalled Riverhead skipper Rick Kopp. “And we saw the wall crumble. But once our defense got back out there our intensity increased and we shut them down.”
Riverhead came crashing out of the chute with a nine-play, 87-yard drive capped by an eight-yard Frank Brown touchdown run. Then, after Westhampton’s 30-yard punt return, which could have been a lot worse (the safety slipped twice), Riverhead got the ball on a silver platter. A bad snap sent the ball almost all the way to the Hurricane end zone and Rick Kopp only needed a one-yard keeper to make it 13-0. The point-after kick was blocked.
Christmas came early again in the second quarter when a ball squirted loose out of Westhampton hands into J. T. Trent’s. Good blocking on the line set up a long gain for tailback Carl Smith on the very next play, but Smith helped his own cause with a 60-yard broken-tackle run and Riverhead was up 6-0.
Eddie Summar next saved a potential Hurricane touchdown by flagging down Steven Rubio deep in Blue Waves territory. It only put off the inevitable, however, because the Hurricanes were able to score about three minutes later on a quarterback fake. The subsequent kick was good to make it 20-7.
Riverhead got another chance to up the ante when Smith got long yardage on a run where he was knocked out of bounds in violent fashion. Randy Kopp got the first down on a keeper and then hit Brown with a sideline pass to put the Waves in good position to score from the air. But Kopp put the ball in the air only to have it batted out of Jeff Ciolino’s reach by spoilers Brian Sommers and later, Trent returned the favor and was shaken up on the play.
Westhampton came out of the locker room with menace on its mind, trying for an onside kick. But Riverhead was able to capitalize on a turnover with 3:33 left in the third quarter when Rubio took the ball into the end zone on a one-yard run. Blue Waves fans held their collective breath when Westhampton recovered an onside kick on the 43-yard line of Riverhead. But Andrea Lee saved the day when he recovered a Bill Ciraco fumble. Luckily for Riverhead, they were able to work the ball into Hurricane territory, because Dana Harris pounced on a loose ball minutes before the third quarter ended.
Westhampton was forced to kick on a fourth and six. That set up a 55-yard run by Carl Smith, which resulted in a touchdown to make the score 26-14 and put Riverhead out of immediate danger. Minutes later Carl Smith almost had an instant replay on a punt return but his stride was broken at the nine-yard line by a tackler. Kopp let Brown finish the drive off, which he did in two plays. Riverhead ended the scoring for the day with an extra point.
Smith was the obvious leading ground gainer for the day, with 244 yards rushing in 17 carries plus a 54-yard punt return. Riverhead stacked up 280-plus yards total while holding Westhampton to 158. Kopp cited the outstanding blocking of Greg Polak, junior tackle Robert Brown and sophomore guard Everett Gilliam as the other half of Smith’s success story. On the defensive side, end Pete Troyan drew raves, as did nose tackle Derek Robinson, who was named the outstanding defensive player of the …[Editor’s note: Copy is missing before the story resumed on a jump page].
… Steve Palazzo. On the next play, with only about 35 seconds left in the half, Westhampton intercepted.
Now Riverhead heads into the first round of playoffs at 1:30 Saturday afternoon in a match-up with Islip, which fell, 20-12, to Harborfields last week. Islip finished its regular season at second place in League VI. “They’re a good passing team with a swarming defense and an excellent field-goal kicker,” assessed Kopp. “Adversity has brought them together. … I’ve seen their last five games on film.”