Jharvis Gilliam’s season is over.
Gilliam, a first-string junior cornerback for the Riverhead High School football team who also plays running back, injured his thumb in practice last week. That not only sat him out for Riverhead’s 12-7 home-opening victory over Smithtown East on Saturday, but for the remainder of the season as well.
“That was a big loss,” said coach Leif Shay.
Any help Gilliam could have provided Riverhead’s running game would have been welcomed, too. The Blue Waves averaged less than two yards per carry Saturday. Four players totaled 56 yards from 31 carries. A week earlier, Riverhead managed only six rushing yards in a 43-8 loss at Centereach.
The growing pains of a green offensive line may be a big part of the problem.
“We have to improve in the interior line,” Shay said. “That’s no secret. We have to be able to get the blocks on blitzing linebackers. If we do that, we’ll be OK.”
• Yellow flags are a red flag
Aside from running the ball, perhaps the other big complaint about Riverhead’s play Saturday was its lack of discipline at times. The Blue Waves were whistled for seven penalties (including three personal fouls), totaling 70 yards.
“It could have been a lot better,” tight end Konstantinos Koukounas said. “We really killed ourselves with the penalties.”
At the same time, Smithtown East was penalized seven times for 50 yards.
Riverhead quarterback Cristian Pace said, “As the game went on, we had to be disciplined because we’ve seen a lot of flags come out.”
• Notes and quotes
One of the most active players on the field for Riverhead was Lawrence Bishop. The 5-9, 165-pound junior made seven tackles (two for losses) and ran the ball eight times for 25 yards. “Lawrence is probably one of our toughest kids pound for pound,” said Leif Shay … Riverhead doesn’t have much time to savor this victory. The Blue Waves (2-1) will play their next game Thursday afternoon at Half Hollow Hills East (3-0). Hills East, the No. 7 seed in Suffolk County Division II, defeated Newfield on Saturday, 32-14. In their previous two games, the Thunderbirds topped Smithtown East, 14-10, and Bay Shore, 23-13. Shay doesn’t seem concerned about the short turnaround time between games. He said, “We don’t celebrate or moan anything for more than 24 hours.”
Photo caption: Riverhead’s Lawrence Bishop fights for some tough yards between Smithtown East’s Rob Fondacaro, left, and Brian Ruggerio. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)