Trailing by a point with five minutes to go in Thursday’s game at Walt Whitman, Riverhead football coach Leif Shay didn’t think twice about going for two.
“I believe in these guys,” he said after the game.
And while his team failed to convert on the attempt, they didn’t let their coach down in the end.
After a three-and-out from the Wildcats, Riverhead running back Jeremiah Cheatom scored with 1:19 to go on a 26-yard run to put the Waves ahead in a 34-27 come-from-behind victory Thursday afternoon.
It may not have been how the coaches drew it up, but the unbeaten Riverhead football team (5-0) keeps finding a way to win.
“We never had a doubt,” said Cheatom. “[After falling behind in the fourth] we knew we just had to come back harder than before.”
Cheatom ordinarily would not have even been in the game when he scored the winning touchdown. But after senior standout Charles Bartlett, who scored 14 touchdowns in Riverhead’s first four games, sprained his ankle in the second quarter, Cheatom became the primary back for the Waves. He’d end up gaining more than 40 yards in a critical fourth quarter.
But the sophomore running back didn’t do it on his own against Whitman (2-3), as Riverhead ultimately won with a balanced attack. Senior receiver Reggie Moore led the way with three touchdowns, including one on a 90-yard kick return to open the second half.
Moore’s other two scores came on passes from quarterback Ryan Bitzer, who also ran for a touchdown.
Whitman still had a shot to get even in the final minute, but Waves lineman Joseph Napoli tipped a pass attempt from Wildcats quarterback Mitchell Bermudez and hauled it in for an interception and the victory. Quinn Funn also recorded a pick for Riverhead, while adding a few big catches on offense.
Whitman struck first when Bermudez scored on the first play of the game, keeping the ball on an option and taking it 69 yards to the house. He’d later add a 62-yard passing touchdown on a fourth-and-1 that gave the Wildcats a 27-20 lead with 7:05 left in the fourth quarter.
The Wildcats’ other two touchdowns were scored by bruising fullback Darrell Felder.
Riverhead has now scored 207 points in five games. The 34 points the Waves scored Thursday is actually their lowest output of the season.
“We have a lot of good players on this team,” said Cheatom. “We know how to play together as a team and the whole team can dominate.”
The victory guarantees the Waves, who are tied with West Babylon at the top of the Division II standings, a spot in the postseason.The two squads will play each other for first place next Friday night at 7 p.m. in West Babylon.
It’s a big difference from a season ago, when the Waves won just two games, but their coach is taking it in stride.
“Last year we couldn’t get the big bounce or the lucky break,” Shay said. “This year we’ve been fortunate and things keep going our way.”
Check back tomorrow morning for more photos.