Rough first half swamps Riverhead Blue Waves

Riverhead’s hopes of starting the season strong were dashed Saturday afternoon as Bay Shore defeated the Blue Waves 26-14 at Mike McKillop Memorial Field.

Riverhead (0-1, Division I) put themselves in an immediate hole as Bay Shore’s Dennis Hodge paraded through the kickoff coverage for an 85-yard opening touchdown. 

“We weren’t prepared,” Riverhead head coach Ed Grassman said. “You can see that from the opening kick off. With the heat alert this week we didn’t have much practice time before the game and it showed. It’s hard to simulate the game from inside a gym. It’s on us as coaches to have our guys ready.”

Bay Shore (1-0, Division I) continued to pile it on for the rest of the first half as the Blue Waves struggled to get any positive plays going on the offensive side of the ball. On their first offensive series following the kick return, the Marauders pounded the ball down the field before connecting on a jump-ball catch in the corner of the end zone for Hodge’s second touchdown of the game.

Holding penalties and false starts stalled a lot of the Blue Waves offensive sets in the first half. The last two possessions showed some promise with Riverhead’s sophomore quarterback Maurice Scott using his legs for 20-yard and 33-yard gains, but both drives ended in a turnover. To make matters worse, with less than a minute left before halftime, Bay Shore’s big senior tight end Jordan Tyler caught a pass in the flat and took it 82 yards for another TD.

“I felt like our defense played well aside from that final play before half,” Grassman said. “We lost focus there and they took advantage.”

Though Bay Shore scored three first-half touchdowns, the lead was only 18-0 as they failed to covert on every extra point try. With four minutes left in the third quarter, Riverhead finally broke through. From the first snap of the drive to the final play, the Blue Waves offense showed its true capability. Scott connected on a first down pass to Kevin Qualey for 14 yards. Scott then took off for 8 yards on the ground himself and two snaps later found Kevin Johnson on a 27-yard missile. Scott finished the drive with a 20-yard pass to Danny Healy, plus a two-point conversion toss to Johnson, to cut the lead to 18-8.

“I think we found our identity in the second half,” Grassman said. “You can tell things started to click.”

But just when it seemed Riverhead had seized some momentum, Bay Shore struck again on Hodge’s third touchdown of the game to extend the lead to 24-8. To the Blue Waves’ credit, they instantly fought back with another touchdown drive highlighted by a flea-flicker play that ended up in the hands of Healy for 28 yards. The drive concluded with a 9-yard touchdown pass to Johnson.

On the next offensive drive, with Riverhead backed up deep in their own end, Scott was flagged for intentional grounding from the end zone, resulting in a safety and all but ending hopes for a comeback.

“I think we did some things poorly but I also think we had some positives to take away from a game like this,” Grassman said. “We had some kids step up in spots that I didn’t know had it in them. We have to go back and watch all the tape and try to get better and find that consistency.”

Scott threw for 157 yards and ran for another 91, but other than those QB scrambles, the Blue Waves struggled to put together a solid running game.

“It’s something we’re going to have to take a close look at,” Grassman said. “Scott’s only a sophomore, so we can’t solely rely on him for offense, but it’s safe to say he’ll be more involved in the running game.”

Riverhead faced a short turnaround with their next game coming Wednesday against Commack at 4 p.m. Commack (0-1, Division I) lost its opening game to Sachem North on Saturday, 24-14.