As the Riverhead Blue Waves arrived back on the field for the second half of Saturday’s Division I game at Bay Shore, Riverhead coach Ed Grassman sensed his team was flat.
The Blue Waves had squandered some opportunities in the first half and were beginning the third quarter all even — 0-0.
Needing a spark to ignite the team, senior John Booker was there to deliver it.
Booker caught the opening kick-off of the second half at the 30-yard line, hauling in the ball with two hands low to the ground. He evaded the first Bay Shore tackler and raced up the right sideline for a 70-yard touchdown return, finally breaking the ice for the Blue Waves.
“That picked up the whole team spirit,” Grassman said.
Booker said once he controlled the ball, he found the hole and ran through it.
“Nothing but green grass in front of me,” he said. “I knew by me scoring that, it would definitely spark the team.”
The Blue Waves never looked back after Booker’s score, prevailing 20-0 against the Marauders to spoil the school’s homecoming game. The Blue Waves improved to 2-1 in Division I, and picked up a critical win against a Bay Shore (0-3) team that has now scored only two touchdowns in three games and has yet to reach double digits in a game.
Riverhead bounced back after a tough loss to Sachem East one week earlier, 14-7, in a game the players felt they let slip away.
Senior Amari Funn said the Blue Waves had a similar slow start against Bay Shore as they did one week earlier, but were able to turn things around this time.
“[Booker’s] return set things off,” Funn said. “That ignited us a lot. We started getting good runs, and O-line started doing what they’re supposed to do.”
The Blue Waves got another monster effort from Funn, who tallied 173 yards on 26 carries and scored a pair of touchdowns. His 13-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter gave the Blue Waves some breathing room with the 20-0 advantage.
Funn has found himself in multiple roles on offense, playing running back and quarterback. He played both positions Saturday, splitting time under center with junior John Lennon III.
“Whenever we feel like we need a change in pace when the offense gets stale we put Funn in there,” Grassman said. “He’s running the ball pretty good from the quarterback spot.”
The Blue Waves didn’t need to pass much, but were able to connect on some big plays. Junior Daniel Healy hauled in two passes for 43 yards. Lennon was 4-of-7 passing for 72 yards and Funn completed one pass for 15 yards to Booker.
The Blue Waves overcame some sloppiness as turnovers and penalties limited what could have been a more one-sided score. Riverhead had three turnovers and a long list of penalties.
Leading 7-0 in the third quarter, the Blue Waves were set up 1st-and-12 at the Marauders’ 12-yard line, only to see four consecutive penalties move them back 40 yards and to the other side of midfield. The drive ended with an interception.
“We did not play a well disciplined game,” Grassman said. “A lot of holding. And our offensive line is young. We’re rotating three sophomores in there. They’re going to get better and hopefully that stops. We were out of sync at times with the penalties.”
Riverhead’s defense did its job forcing turnovers. The Blue Waves recovered three fumbles and Angelo Confort hauled in an interception as Riverhead ultimately won the turnover battle.
“We tackled very well today and we didn’t allow them to get the deep pass off,” Grassman said. “That’s what we kind of feared. I thought we had them scouted pretty well.”
In the final minutes of the fourth quarter, Riverhead lineman Cyrus Serrano suffered an apparent neck injury and had to be taken via ambulance to a local hospital for “extra precautionary” reasons. The game was delayed as Serrano was attended to on the field.
Grassman said Serrano was able to move his extremities and was talking and he was expecting to get more information later in the day.
The Blue Waves travel to Commack next week to continue a three-game stretch of away games.