Featured Story

Football: Saturday was a Funn day for Riverhead

Now this was a Funn day.

That’s how the Riverhead football team looked at it anyway.

Amari Funn surely had fun, as did his first cousin and fellow senior running back, John Booker. The pair, who have played football together since they were 7 years old, have complementary running styles that have changed over the years.

Referring to those days when he was 7, Funn said: “Back then I was the thunder. Now he’s the thunder.”

No question, Booker (6-0, 200 pounds) is the thunder and Funn (5-11, 180) is the lightning.

That is not to say, though, that Funn doesn’t still have some thunder in him. It was on display Saturday in Riverhead’s final home regular-season game. Funn showed the sort of power runner he can be late in the third quarter when he ran straight into Brentwood’s Joshua Almendarez. Almendarez went down as a result of the hard collision. Funn just kept on running 34 yards for the go-ahead touchdown that gave Riverhead a 9-7 lead at Coach Mike McKillop Memorial Field.

In the fourth quarter, Funn broke another tackle en route to a 15-yard TD run with 2 minutes, 21 seconds left in the Suffolk County Division I game.

On Brentwood’s first play from scrimmage after that, Riverhead’s Andrew MacGray picked off a pass, essentially sealing a 16-7 homecoming and Senior Day victory for the Blue Waves (3-4).

“It meant a lot,” Booker said. “A lot of people came out to watch us play and we played very well in front of them.”

The win kept Riverhead’s slim playoff hopes alive heading into its regular-season finale Friday night at Sachem North.

LeVon Short flips a pass to John Booker for a six-yard gain in the second quarter. (Credit: Bill Landon)

Asked about his understanding of Riverhead’s playoff situation with the complicated power-rating system, coach Ed Grassman said: “I don’t know. I don’t look at that. It’s one game at a time and we got to play the next game.”

In snapping a three-game losing streak, Riverhead battled against a 1-5 Brentwood team (now losers of six straight) that didn’t look like a 1-5 team entering the game or anything like pushovers.

“They definitely didn’t,” Funn said. “You can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Grassman said: “It was a tough game. They were big, they were physical. They came excited. This is [the] first time we’ve ever beat Brentwood, so we knew it was going to be a tough game.”

Riverhead’s defense played shutout quality ball, limiting Brentwood to 143 yards of offense, all on the ground. The Indians threw the ball only four times without completing a pass.

Brentwood’s points came from a pick-six by Malachi Baker and the extra point in the first quarter.

The score remained 7-0 until Riverhead got a break late in the second quarter. Sean Keane (eight tackles) scooped up a blocked punt and gave Riverhead possession at the Brentwood 33-yard line.

Booker completed a 16-yard pass to Angelo Confort. Then LeVon Short ran for four yards, only to be tackled inbounds by Edras Hernandez with the final seconds of the half ticking down. Riverhead quickly lined up and Short spiked the ball with 0.4 seconds remaining on the game clock.

Charlie Garcia Cerna then booted a 25-yard field goal.

It was worth three points on the scoreboard, but much more to Riverhead’s psyche heading to the locker room.

“That field goal changed the momentum,” Grassman said. “That was big.”

By halftime, Brentwood had mustered only 56 yards and Riverhead had 55.

The second half was a different story. Funn ran for 158 of his 192 yards in the second half.

“His ability to break tackles is definitely crazy,” Booker said. “He just keeps his feet moving and, with that speed, I don’t think you’re gonna catch him.”

Michael McLean’s fumble recovery set up Funn’s first TD.

Brentwood, trailing 9-7, mounted a 12-play drive that ended when Almendarez’s 38-yard field-goal attempt flew wide left with 7:31 remaining in the fourth quarter. Seven runs by Funn and four by Booker set up Funn’s second score.

“This is probably the biggest crowd I’ve played [before] for Riverhead,” Funn said after his team rang the victory bell at nearby Pulaski Street Intermediate School. “Definitely a loud crowd, yeah. It definitely helped, though.”

Grassman said he gives his 16 seniors “a lot of credit because this is the group that there was a failed budget and they missed a season of playing. They’ve been able to overcome a lot.”

He noted, “It’s the way you want to end homecomings — with a win.”

That’s the Funn way.