Football: Defense carries Riverhead to playoff win over Deer Park
Behind a suffocating defense that forced two turnovers and bottled up Deer Park’s star running back, the Riverhead Blue Waves advanced to the semifinals of the Division II playoffs with a 23-6 win Saturday afternoon over the Falcons.
Riverhead running back Ryun Moore scored a pair of touchdowns — including a 56-yarder in the second half — to help lift the Blue Waves to victory at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field.
The Blue Waves led 23-0 before Deer Park got on the scoreboard with 7:58 left in the fourth quarter.
The Riverhead defense limited Deer Park running back Jasawn Thompson to just 21 rushing yards on 10 carries. Thompson did not play in the second half after he was injured late in the first half on a hit near the sideline. Thompson entered the game ranked third in the county in rushing yards, according to Newsday stats.
“I think he tweaked his knee,” said Deer Park coach Ron Langella. “He stiffened up pretty good.”
Riverhead coach Leif Shay said he noticed Thompson limping to the locker room at halftime with the Blue Waves leading 10-0. But he wasn’t about to spread the news to his team.
“They figured it out halfway through the third quarter,” Shay joked afterward.
Thompson’s absence forced the Falcons to go to the air more than they likely have all season. Deer Park sophomore quarterback Jarett Bonser threw 26 passes, completing 13. He was picked off twice, once in the first half by Jacob Robinson, and again in the second half by Roger Foster.
“Sometimes we’re susceptible to the passing game, so in some ways it was better for them to not have [Thompson] back there,” Shay said.
Riverhead threw the ball plenty as well. Kenny Simco completed 14 of 24 passes for 136 yards. His biggest strike came on a 56-yard touchdown to Steven Reid in the fourth quarter that made it 23-0. The touchdown came on the first play after Foster’s interception.
In the first half, Moore (103 rushing yards, 17 carries) punched the ball in from five yards with just under one minute remaining in to put the Blue Waves ahead 10-0. Riverhead’s defense set up the drive by forcing a three-and-out on Deer Park’s previous possession.
The Falcons (6-3) took over deep in their own territory after a Riverhead punt. On second down, the Falcons lined up Thompson at quarterback. He rolled right and was quickly taken down for an eight-yard loss by Raheem Brown. The Falcons picked up 11 yards on third down, but were forced to punt, giving the Blue Waves the ball back with good field position and 1:33 on the clock.
Simco connected with Steven Reid on a 39-yard pass to bring the Blue Waves to the Deer Park 12. Two plays later, Moore scored for only touchdown of the first half.
Riverhead got on the scoreboard first when Nico Bossey knocked in a 25-yard field goal with 1:09 left in the first quarter. The ball hit off the right goalpost and fell through for a successful attempt.
The Blue Waves forced a turnover on the Falcons’ deepest drive into Riverhead territory in the first half. On third-and-11 from the Riverhead 29-yard line, Bonser was picked off over the middle by Robinson, who made a leaping grab and held onto the ball amid of a crowd of Deer Park players.
The Blue Waves chewed up most of the second quarter with a 13-play drive that ultimately stalled in Deer Park territory. The Blue Waves turned it over on downs after a Simco pass to Mark Andrejack came up a yard shy of the first down. A penalty on the play would have negated the pass attempt had it been enough for the first down.
Riverhead (7-2) advances to the semifinals next week and will travel to Half Hollow Hills West, the No. 2 seed. Hills West defeated Hills East Saturday. The No. 1 seed, Bellport, rallied from a 12-0 hole to defeat Newfield, 13-12. A Bellport or Hills West loss would have given Riverhead a home game. Hills West defeated Riverhead in the regular season.