Riverhead High School athletic trainer Chris Hildebrandt had one final pickup to make after Saturday’s football game. As athletic director Brian Sacks climbed into Hildebrandt’s golf cart at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field, Sacks joked that he had a cramp.
The wisecrack drew some chuckles and smiles, but the issue of leg cramps was no laughing matter. Least of all to the Blue Waves.
Cramps are painful, and they were especially so in a marathon Suffolk County Division I game against Brentwood. No statistics were kept on the number of players who went down on the field and needed medical attention under the beating sun on a warm day (it was 78 degrees at kickoff time), but it was a lot. One after another.
“I’ve never seen anything like that before,” Riverhead tight end/defensive end Deontae Sykes said after the game that took over four hours to complete.
It might have felt longer to the Blue Waves, who lost their home opener, 52-35, in the first ever meeting between the two teams.
“You saw the difference between a bigger, stronger team that has a little bit more depth and, you know, the weather wore us out, and then once guys started going down, our subs weren’t as good as the guys they were putting in,” Riverhead Coach Leif Shay said. “It was a war of attrition.
“A lot of cramps, things like that on both sides. When you have kids that are cramping up and they can’t go back out, you got to look to backups and sometimes the backups aren’t quite ready.”
Riverhead (1-1) twice built 15-point leads in the second quarter, only to see Brentwood (1-1) close the game out with five unanswered touchdowns. The Blue Waves were shut out in the second half.
Sixth-seeded Brentwood, which has its top four receivers back from last year, can throw the ball. Dallas Crespo (20-for-45) passed for 413 yards and five TDs. The senior quarterback also ran for one. Kenny Lazo (five catches, 137 yards) caught two of those TD passes while Jean-Pierre Terrell, Jaylen Salgado and Jason Ortega each had a scoring grab as well. Also as part of the offensive explosion, Lazo (27 carries, 145 yards) ran for a pair of TDs.
Terrell had a tremendous game on the defensive side of the ball, too, with 11 tackles and a sack.
Riverhead’s Albert Daniels once again showed his quality. The senior running back/defensive back had an outstanding game in his own right, running for 181 yards and three TDs from 22 carries. One of those TDs was a 68-yarder down the left sideline in which he managed to stay inbounds despite an attempt to push him out. In addition, he was in on eight tackles and had one of Riverhead’s two interceptions (Isaiah Barbieri had the other). A week earlier, Daniels ran for a career-high four TDs and 237 yards in a season-opening win at Central Islip.
On Saturday, Aaron Gaines-Bullock bolted for a 60-yard Riverhead TD run down the sideline. Riverhead’s other TD was the result of some trickery, a flea flicker in which David Squires delivered a 26-yard TD pass to Barbieri.
“I felt like we had [the game] plenty of times, then the cramping just started,” said Sykes.
It was a l-o-o-o-ng game. A two-hour first half was followed by a third quarter that seemed to go on forever. The explanation: a lot of passing, penalties and play stoppages for injuries, namely cramping issues. It seemed as if just about every other play another player went down. After one play, two Blue Waves were down at the same time.
“The trainer said he wanted to put in for overtime because he might be paid by the cramp,” said Shay.
Riverhead received a scare when Daniels was lying on the field after Barbieri’s interception early in the third quarter. “My whole lower body cramped up,” he said.
Daniels wasn’t out of the game for long, though.
Daniels said cramps weren’t to blame for Riverhead’s defeat. “No,” he said. “I think it was just focus. You got to pay more attention to the little things, little details.”
Riverhead, seeded 12th in the 12-team division, is in its first year in Division I. “[Division] I is tough,” Shay said after the opener to a three-game home stand that will be followed by three games on the road. “Every game is going to be a battle for us.”
Sachem North (1-1) is up next.
“We got to have a better week, a better week of practice,” Daniels said. “We got to hydrate.”
Photo caption: Riverhead’s Deontae Sykes sacks Brentwood quarterback Dallas Crespo as Lamarion Hopkins, left, and Rayvon Moore (7) help out. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)