Football: Stubborn Riverhead ‘D’ holds firm

Riverhead coach Leif Shay addressing his players following their win over Newfield. (Credit: Tim Gannon)
Riverhead coach Leif Shay addressing his players following their win over Newfield. (Credit: Tim Gannon)


The Riverhead Blue Waves’ defense took the philosophy of “bend but don’t break” to extremes in Saturday’s 20-15 win over the Newfield Wolverines in Selden.

In the first half of the Suffolk County Division II game, Newfield was stopped on Riverhead’s 6-yard line after going for it on fourth down with 2 yards to go on. The Wolverines were stopped on fourth-and-1 from Riverhead’s 4 on their next drive, and they were intercepted on a third-and-1 play on Riverhead’s 6 on the drive after that, leaving the score at 8-7 Newfield (1-4) by halftime.

In the fourth quarter, after both teams got their offenses going a little more, the Riverhead defense stopped Newfield on a fourth-and-3 from Riverhead’s 10 to seal the win.

“Defensive coordinator Scott Hackal’s goal-line defense has been great all year,” Blue Waves coach Leif Shay said after the game. “Inside the red zone, the guys really clamp down. Some of it is luck, and some of it is skill, but I’d rather be lucky than good.”

The Blue Waves (4-1) also were without about six starters, Shay said.

“We had a lot of guys hurt and lot of guys who were taking SATs, so we had just about every scenario where guys couldn’t play, and we had to rely on a lot of backups to come in and do the job,” he said.

Shay said the efforts of players like Jacob Robinson, Alex Heimroth and Garrick Lynch stepping into starting rolls was key.

Perhaps especially so for Lynch, who made an interception in Riverhead’s end zone that ended a Newfield drive at the 6 that could have put them up by two scores at the half.

“I guess I was in the right place at the right time,” Lynch said.

It was Lynch’s first game of the year. A herniated disc in his spine had delayed his start to the season.

Riverhead’s solid defensive effort came on the heels of the team’s first loss of the season last week, when it gave up 42 points to Half Hollow Hills West.

“Forty-two points is very, very … it’s like hell for us,” linebacker Rasheem Brown said. “We haven’t given up 42 points in a long while. We had a big practice every day this week, and everybody was getting under everybody’s skin.”

In the second half, Riverhead got its running game rolling, with Ryun Moore rushing for 120 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries.

Moore and Newfield running back Denzel Williams seems to be in a contest to outdo each other. Williams had 82 yards rushing on 16 carries as well as a 70-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to start the game and an interception in the end zone that killed a Riverhead drive at Newfield’s 15 in the first quarter.

The first Riverhead score came on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Ken Simco to Dylan Pace.

“We knew we could wear them down and run the ball a little bit and that’s what we decided to do in the second half,” Shay said.

Brown, who is also a starting fullback, said: “We’re a running team. At the end of the day, we do what we do best.”