On an historic day for the Riverhead High School football program, Albert Daniels showed his true colors: red, white and blue. Put the emphasis on blue.
Wearing his new, neat looking red, white and blue high-top cleats, replete with stars and stripes (and a red, white and blue mouthguard to match), Daniels left his cleat marks all over David J. Goldstein Field in Central Islip on an overcast Saturday afternoon.
After unveiling the snazzy footwear, Daniels ran for a career-high four touchdowns and 237 yards as the Blue Waves won their first ever Suffolk County Division I game, 39-14.
“There’s a lot of good teams in Division I, and we just came out here and made a statement win,” said Daniels.
Each of Daniels’ TD runs went for double-digit yards: 35, 12, 26 and 76.
Daniels cut through an opening up the middle for a score on Riverhead’s third play from scrimmage. He swept right for his second TD on the second play of Riverhead’s next series. For his third TD, he used a nifty jump cut to the left. And that 76-yarder on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter was a sight to behold. Daniels broke around the left end before turning on the jets.
“I was ready to play,” said the senior running back, who carried the ball 15 times.
No question about that.
“I thought he showed exceptional vision today, which he always does, but I also liked the burst of speed that he showed,” coach Leif Shay said. “He got a lot of yards today, but he’ll be the first one to tell you, the offensive line blocked.”
Indeed it did. Assembling a new offensive line was a paramount concern during training camp. Left tackle James Foster, left guard Lamarion Hopkins, center William Berkowsky, right guard Jack Qualey and right tackle William Sellers-Beeker got the job done. They blocked well for Daniels, starting quarterback David Squires (who went back to pass, rolling right before taking off for a 21-yard TD run) and Aaron Gaines-Bullock (who powered his way into the end zone from 5 yards out, making it 39-14 in the fourth quarter). Riverhead rolled for 364 yards on offense, 321 of them on the ground.
“The O-line made it easy,” Daniels said. “All I had to do was run straight.”
And don’t forget the defense. Defensive coordinator Charles McMillen had to like what he saw from his defense.
That defense, led by Tyreek Earl Parker (seven solo tackles) and Isaiah Barbieri (six solo tackles, one assisted tackle), played well. Tylique Walker (26 carries, 115 yards) ran for TDs on successive plays from scrimmage in the third quarter. Parker pulled Walker down, but officials determined that Walker landed on Parker before rising and continuing his 11-yard TD run. Then, right after Riverhead fumbled away the ensuing kickoff, Walker took a shotgun snap from the Riverhead 33-yard line and darted forward for the score.
Central Islip ended up with 124 net yards.
Riverhead was seeded 12th in the 12-team division (Central Islip was ninth). The Blue Waves sounded as if they wanted to make a point that they can play in Division I after going 2-6 last year in Division II.
“We have a little chip on our shoulder,” Shay said. “We have to prove that we belong and we [can] bang at this level, but we haven’t seen the big boys yet, so let’s temper the expectations. It’s one win and next week is going to be a very different week. We’re excited about where we’re heading, but we got a long way to go.”
Asked if he noticed a difference between D-I and D-II, Daniels replied, “Football is football.”
Central Islip is the only team on Riverhead’s schedule this year that has a career winning record against the Blue Waves at 5-4. The previous meeting between the teams was a 48-8 Riverhead win in 2013. “I watched that film a couple of times over the past two or three weeks,” said Daniels.
Daniels said he picked out the patriotic cleats in honor of his grandfather, who was in the Air Force.
Was his great game the result of magic from the cleats?
“No, it’s just hard work,” he said.
All the same, Barbieri, staring down at Daniels’ cleats, said, “I think I need to get some cleats.”
Photo caption: Albert Daniels (15 carries, 237 yards) pulls away from the Central Islip defense for one of his four touchdown runs in Riverhead’s first ever Division I game. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)