Dashan Briggs had that smile. It was one of the more memorable features that his former Riverhead football coaches recalled about him. Head coach Leif Shay said that when Briggs’ chiseled jawline broke into a smile “the whole world would smile with him.”
It was a smile that could brighten a football field.
Not that Briggs would have been smiling following the outcome of Riverhead’s Suffolk County Division II game against Centereach Saturday. Asked how Briggs would have responded to a loss such as the 41-0 thumping Riverhead received, Shay replied: “You wouldn’t be able to talk to him for three days. He would just be mad, put his nose to the grindstone and keep working.”
Technical Sergeant Briggs died in March in a helicopter crash while serving with the 106th Rescue Wing in Iraq. He was 30.
Briggs (Class of 2007) was a running back and linebacker for the Blue Waves before going on to play for Morrisville State College. His uniform number, 22, was retired in an on-field ceremony before Saturday’s game. It’s the third number Riverhead has retired. Derrick Robinson’s 36 and Henry Franke’s 50 are the others.
A No. 22 sign now hangs over the press box with Briggs’ name. Athletic director Brian Sacks presented two No. 22 jerseys to Briggs’ wife, Rebecca.
With the flag flying at half-staff and “22” spraypainted in blue on the green field, assistant coach Sal Loverde delivered emotional remarks during the ceremony. Then he concluded: “I know he has the best seat in the house. Enjoy the game, my friend.”
Briggs would not have found what then transpired enjoyable, however. Riverhead (2-4), which started the day in 12th place in the 14-team division, was thoroughly outplayed by third-place Centereach (4-2). The Blue Waves managed a meager three rushing yards for the game (two less than they had by halftime) and only 51 yards of offense. They picked up only two first downs (both in the first half) and went 0-for-9 on third-down conversions.
Riverhead quarterback Cristian Pace (4-for-10, 51 yards, two interceptions) was sacked four times, twice by Josh Ackerler.
“We got beat up up front,” Shay said. “It was hard.”
Riverhead punter William Garcia Solorzano was a busy young man, punting six times. Two of those were blocked, one of which was recovered in the end zone by Ayodele Adegoke. Harrington’s two-point run after that made it 20-0 by halftime.
“We just got to play better than we did today,” said center/defensive lineman James Foster.
Of course, Eric Harrington didn’t help matters. The bruising junior running back/linebacker had the dirtiest uniform on the field, and for good reason. Harrington barreled his way to 233 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries. On defense, he made two tackles and recovered a fumble.
“He was definitely hard to take down,” said Foster.
On the game’s third snap, Harrington gave an indication of what was to come by breaking free for a 53-yard gain to the Riverhead 6-yard line. Two plays later, Devin Demetres hopped into the end zone.
Harrington showed his determination in the third quarter when he bounced off a tackler and dashed 39 yards for a score.
Centereach added fourth-quarter TD runs by Patrick Stoss and Christopher Crane.
Tempers boiled over after Riverhead’s Aaron Gaines-Bullock recovered a Centereach fumble on the Riverhead 14 with 6:28 left to play. After a lot of pushing and shoving, one player from each side was ejected, including Riverhead’s Steven McDonald. That means the two-way starter will sit out Saturday’s game at Smithtown West because of an automatic one-game suspension.
“There was a lot of trash talking and it just got out of hand,” said Foster.
Shay said McDonald “had a good game. It’s just unfortunate that he lost his head. Those are the things that we struggle with.”
Shay pointed out that Riverhead is so young that it starts two freshmen on the offensive line — Lamarion Hopkins and Foster — and another on the defensive line, Deontae Sykes. “And that’s not to mention all of the sophomores,” he said.
Sykes has a connection to Briggs. Sykes said his father is a distant relative of Briggs. He said, “It had an impact on me because he’s a close family member so I had to play my heart out for him and everybody else on my team, so that’s what I did today.”
That would have been something that could have put a smile on Briggs’ face.
Photo caption: Riverhead running back Albert Daniels (11 carries, 29 yards) picking up yardage in the first quarter against Centereach Saturday. (Credit: Joe Werkmeister)