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Football: Longwood steamrolls Blue Waves

The Riverhead football team may have the heart of lions, but they faced the Lions on Saturday. That was a problem. A big problem.

It wasn’t anything tricky or complicated. Brute strength was the difference as the Longwood Lions bulldozed the visiting Blue Waves, 47-0, to the delight of a large homecoming crowd in Middle Island. Over the course of seven days, Riverhead saw an 80-point swing, having come off a 33-0 defeat of Bay Shore. But Longwood is a big leap up from Bay Shore in terms of skill, experience and strength.

“That team beat us over the summer,” Riverhead coach Leif Shay said of Longwood. “They all went in the weight room and got bigger and stronger, and our guys were just coming out of their coma from not having a program last year. They beat us up up front. They were more physical than us, they were stronger than us, and it wears you down.”

Like the rest of Long Island’s public school teams, Riverhead didn’t play in 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic, but suffered a further blow by sitting out this past spring’s compact schedule because of school budget cutbacks. In light of that, it’s perhaps a bit surprising that Riverhead is 3-4 in Suffolk County Division I, with slim playoff hopes intact going into their final regular-season game next Saturday at home against Sachem East (3-4).

“This is a good, physical team,” Riverhead defensive lineman James Foster said of Longwood, “and I honestly think, you know, some of our guys, they’re young, still got another year to play and, you know, [the Lions have] been gymed up and we’re just not all the way there. We’re not at the same level as them. Missing out on a year was the biggest part, honestly, in my opinion because you miss a year, that’s a year of football taken away from you.”

An indication of the difference between the teams could be seen in the numbers. Riverhead’s offensive statistics were minuscule. By halftime, Riverhead had minus 2 yards rushing.

John Booker of Riverhead sees a pass to him broken up by Longwood’s Tyson Taylor. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

It got worse from there. Riverhead finished the game with minus 16 rushing yards and 75 yards via Justin Mason’s passing arm.

“I heard that they’re a very powerful team, and I definitely expected them to give us a little punch,” said Riverhead defensive end/left guard Lamarion Hopkins.

For a quarter and a half, the only thing separating the teams was Tyson Taylor’s opening-drive touchdown run.

Longwood (3-3) alternated two quarterbacks, Louis Kaleb and Caleb Corbett. Corbett’s quarterback sneak gave Longwood its second TD. Before the first half ended, Taylor scooped up Riverhead’s fumbled pitch and returned the ball 72 yards for a 20-0 lead.

“They had so many big plays just go their way, you know, and that kills,” said Foster.

The Lions roared to start the second half with TDs on their first three possessions. Another big play came on Longwood’s first snap of the third quarter. Kaleb took a shotgun snap and bolted 59 yards for a score. Then Kaleb scored his second TD of the day on a 25-yarder in which he ran into an official and then a defender before reaching his destination. Corbett found a wide open Mason Houser for a 24-yard TD pass.

Jayden Martino’s first varsity TD from a 5-yard run and Daniel Blank’s kick completed the scoring. Blank went 4-for-5 on extra-point attempts.

Longwood had big running games from Terrance Robinson (13 carries, 136 yards) and Kaleb (seven carries, 107 yards), who helped the Lions amass 420 yards in total offense.

Riverhead had 10 possessions in the game. Four ended on punts, three on downs, two on turnovers and the final one when time expired to end the game.

“They were stronger than us up front,” Shay said. “We have two very good linemen. The rest of our guys are still developing.”

It was the third time this season that Riverhead has been shut out. The Blue Waves were also blanked by Ward Melville and Commack.

Can Riverhead benefit from this loss down the road?

“Absolutely,” Shay said. “Hopefully they’ll take to heart that they need to work hard in the offseason and, you know, to prevent these things from happening, they got to get in the weight room and it’s got to be everybody. It’s got to be skill guys, it’s got to be the receivers, it’s got to be the linemen. Everybody’s got to get in the weight room and do their fair share.”