Nailed to the front of Leif Shay’s office door is a board that lists his Riverhead High School football team’s goals for the upcoming season.
The first of those goals — and the only one so far that has been flipped over to be visible — reads, “BEAT WEST ISLIP.”
For the second year in a row, the Blue Waves will open their season against West Islip on Sept. 12. That has to present an especially strange feeling for Sharron Trent. It was during Riverhead’s 28-25 season-opening win over West Islip last year when Trent tore the medial collateral ligament in his right knee, causing him to miss most of the season before returning in time for the playoffs.
While teammates were making a tackle, Trent said, “I was just in the wrong place and they all fell on my knee.”
Trent, who was playing free safety, recounted the thoughts running through his head at the time of the injury. “Like why me?” he said. “The first game of the season and I’m devastated.”
Now, fully recovered and in tip-top shape, Trent is determined to make the most of his senior season.
Trent was in competition for the starting quarterback job last year with Kenny Simco, who won the position but has since graduated. Two years ago Trent was the starting quarterback for a 7-1 junior varsity team.
“I think he could be a good quarterback,” Tyrese Kerr, who plays halfback and defensive end, said after Riverhead’s first preseason practice on Monday morning. “He was a very versatile player when we were younger. He played running back, quarterback, receiver. He’s been all around. I can’t wait to see what he can bring to the team this year. He’s definitely an athlete. He’s good on his feet and he can throw.”
Known for his athleticism and mobility, Trent has played all the skill positions over the course of his football life. And while he is currently seen as the most likely Riverhead signal-caller against West Islip, his position is not written in stone.
Coach Leif Shay said junior Tristan Falisi is “pushing [Trent] pretty hard. There’s no locks anywhere in the program. Sharron’s going to play somewhere, but right now we’re looking at him at quarterback.”
Trent can see some good coming out of the disappointment of having to miss so much of his junior season. “Coming from that setback last year is going to make me work even harder for this year,” he said.
Shay has noticed that Trent has carved out a place for himself as one of the team’s senior leaders.
“He looks great,” Shay said. “He’s in great shape. He hasn’t missed a workout the entire offseason. He showed great leadership, so he’s definitely a guy we’re counting on.”
Being sidelined because of injury and watching his teammates play wasn’t easy for Trent last year. He said he was looking forward to the start of preseason training camp. “Football’s my life,” said Trent, who wears a high-top fade hairstyle (the hair is trimmed on the back and sides of his head). “I love football.”
Referring to Trent’s comeback from the injury, Shay said: “Sharron’s a gamer. He’s a great kid. He understood that the knee injury slowed him down and he had to work his self back. He handled it like a champion.”
The Blue Waves have other seniors they can count on, too, like offensive tackle/defensive tackle Lewis Eastwood, middle linebacker/guard Irving Reyes, running back/cornerback Marcus Reid, receiver Curtis Flippen and Kerr.
Last year the Blue Waves went 7-3, reaching the Suffolk County Division II semifinals before falling to Half Hollow Hills West. Hills West, which lost to East Islip in the county final, is the No. 1 seed in the division this year. Riverhead is No. 2.
A big difference for Riverhead from last year is a decline in numbers. The Blue Waves carried 59 players on their varsity roster last year. This year there are 65 players in the entire program, said Shay.
“When we get the right 11 guys out there, I think we’re as good as we’ve ever been at every position,” Shay said. “I think depth is a little bit of an issue for us this year, but I think if we stay healthy we could really make some noise.”
Kerr has been encouraged by what he senses to be more togetherness on the team this year. “We have more of a bond and a brotherhood,” he said.
The Blue Waves hope that can take them far, which brings us back to Shay’s office door. The last goal on the board on the door? The Long Island championship.
“That’s what we embrace,” Shay said. “We want to have high standards.”
Photo caption: Sharron Trent, who missed most of last season with a knee injury, is once again competing for Riverhead’s starting quarterback position. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)