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Football: Riverhead loss is painful in more ways than one

That one really hurt. Literally.

And it’s the sort of pain that will undoubtedly linger for the coming weeks.

Injuries are a reality. They are an inevitable part of football. They are going to happen. Teams have to deal with them and adjust.

Riverhead suffered its share of unpleasantness Saturday when junior Mason McLean, a two-way starter at wide receiver and cornerback, had to be wheeled off the field on a stretcher after injuring his right leg late in the second quarter of a Suffolk County Division I game at Commack High School. Another two-way starter, sophomore Karter Doyle, rolled his right ankle early in the third quarter and didn’t return.

If all that wasn’t enough, one of Riverhead’s top players, senior Amari Funn, was hampered early in the game when someone stepped on his ankle.

Those misfortunes didn’t make Riverhead’s 35-7 loss any easier to take.

“We don’t have a big team,” coach Ed Grassman said. “We don’t carry a lot of guys and every injury multiplies it. It puts kids out of position.”

The scariest of all the injuries came when McLean was left lying on the field turf following an interception by Commack’s Andrew Riggs with 59.6 seconds left in the first half. A splint was applied to McLean’s leg. McLean’s teammates walked over to him and applauded before he was wheeled off the field.

His older brother, senior Mike McLean, was on the field when the injury occurred.

“I didn’t see exactly what happened, but I remember just running over when I [saw] him on the ground,” said Mike McLean, who himself is normally a tight end, but was filling in at left guard for the injured Syris Serrano. “It looked like he might have been holding his knee or something.”

Mike McLean believes the injury was below the knee.

Riverhead’s Acorey Hobbs tackles Commack’s Richard Yopp with the help of two teammates. (Credit: Robert O’Rourk)

Connor Golz, who played right tackle and inside linebacker for Riverhead, said: “I’m a good friend of his. To see him like that, and he doesn’t really like to express pain.”

Meanwhile, Riverhead felt pain of another sort. Much of the damage inflicted on the Blue Waves came from the passing arm of Commack quarterback Jeremy Weiss. Weiss went 10-for-15 for 226 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those TD passes were caught by Riggs (four catches, 132 yards), a 62-yarder on the game’s third play from scrimmage and a 46-yarder in which Riggs shook off a tackler. The other aerial score was a 37-yard pass to a wide open Richard Yopp.

Jake McKay banged his way into the end zone from 8 yards out on a sweep, followed by Ryan Wald’s extra point, to make it 21-0 by halftime.

John Booker provided Riverhead with its highlight of the day, a 76-yard TD dash in which he spun away from a tackler and broke free down the left side in the fourth quarter. Booker finished with 204 rushing yards from 21 carries.

Gavin Rothschild’s 40-yard TD run with 3:25 left and Wald’s kick closed out the scoring.

Riverhead turned the ball over four times, including interceptions by McKay and Jayden Salti. Commack’s Joon Choi made a game-high 11 tackles.

Both teams are 2-2 at the regular season’s midway mark.

“We played hard,” Grassman said. “They were just a better team. And they were a better team today. I think our team is better than that, but they played a better game than we did today, so it’s a tough one.”

Asked what he thought of how Riverhead played, Golz answered, “Not as good as we should have, but we’ll get better.”

Mike McLean said: “Currently, our backups need to step up. They really need to step up at practice and do what they got to do.”

More than anything else, injuries may be Riverhead’s biggest concern right now.

Said Grassman, “We’re fighting numbers to begin with and we have a lot of injuries.”