Riverhead coach Leif Shay didn’t need to watch hours of film to get a handle on Deer Park’s offensive approach.
“They run Thompson and then they run Thompson and then after that they’ll run Thompson,” Shay said before practice Friday.
Thompson would be Jasawn Thompson, the Falcons’ senior running back who rushed for more than 1,300 yards this season, third best in Suffolk County this year, according to Newsday stats.
Slowing down the big, quick back will be the focal point in Riverhead’s gameplan Saturday in the first round of the Division II playoffs when the teams meet at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field. The 6-2 Blue Waves, the two-time defending county champions, begin their title defense with a 1:30 p.m. game against sixth-seeded Deer Park (6-2).
Shay said Thompson reminds him of a former Blue Wave: Malcolm Cater, who was a co-winner of the Hansen Award as the top player in Suffolk five years ago.
“I think he’s a better linebacker actually than he is a running back,” Shay said of Thompson.
The Blue Waves secured the No. 3 seed and a home playoff game with a thrilling 9-7 win over previously unbeaten Bellport last week. The Clippers will still enter the playoffs as the No. 1 seed and Half Hollow Hills West is No. 2.
The Blue Waves won that game despite losing running back Ryun Moore to an injury. Shay said Moore is good to go for Saturday’s game after suffering a thigh bruise last week.
Shay said they limited Moore’s workload this week in practice. He sat out two days and got back into the practice flow Thursday.
“I think it’s actually good for him,” Shay said. “It seems like he’s got a little more spring to him now. Sometimes rest is good for a kid like that.”
When Moore went down, the Blue Waves turned to Raheem Brown, who rushed for 97 yards and a touchdown.
The Blue Waves did not face Deer Park in the playoffs, something Shay said he prefers when the postseason begins.
“It’s hard to beat a team twice,” he said. “When you play a team you haven’t seen, it’s fresh, it’s new. The kids are excited.”
Shay said he hoped the home crowd would provide a boost. The Blue Waves are 15-1 at home in the past three seasons. Their one loss came in Week 6 this season against East Islip, 21-14.
“If they make a lot of noise and make it difficult for Deer Park to call in their plays, I think that’ll help us a lot,” he said.
The Blue Waves begin the playoffs trying to become the first Division II team to win three straight county titles since North Babylon accomplished a three-peat from 1998-00.
“We got just as good a chance as anybody right now,” Shay said. “Our guys think that they’re the best team and that’s all that really matters.”