More frustration for Riverhead as homecoming game cut short following crowd dispute with refs

After winning their first game of the season last week over Patchogue-Medford, the Blue Waves hoped to carry some momentum into homecoming weekend. Unfortunately Riverhead took another step backwards, losing 36-7 to Sachem East Saturday.

Worse still, the game was ended prematurely when the refs walked off the field — with more than five minutes remaining in the third quarter — apparently out of safety concerns following an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

Sachem East had just eked across the goal line to take a 35-7 lead when Riverhead safety Kevin Johnson kicked the ball in frustration, inadvertently hitting an official standing near the sideline. The ref immediately threw a penalty flag, and signaled that Johnson was ejected from the game.

Following Sachem’s successful extra-point conversion, both teams took the field for the ensuing kickoff, but officials halted play because a group of fans near the end zone continued to verbally protest the penalty call.

Those spectators claimed to have seen the ref push Johnson as he was leaving the field. But video footage of the incident reviewed by the News-Review staff, appeared to show that a teammate had shoved Johnson just as the ref was signaling that he had been ejected [at roughly the 2:05:40 mark.]

From there the verbal barrage from the sidelines got so bad that the officials said the fans would have to leave, otherwise they would walk off the field. It was unclear whether the refs wanted to remove the entire group or just one person in particular. The spectators were approached by security personnel, but apparently refused to leave, and the game was subsequently called off.

“I feel bad for the kids that it had to end this way,” Riverhead head coach Ed Grassman said. “It was their homecoming game and to end like this is not right. Yes, we were losing, but there was so much game left to play.”

It was a bitter ending in a game that showed some initial promise for the Blue Waves. After Sachem East’s Mikey Riley made an end-around run 55 yards to the end zone to extend the lead to 9-0, Riverhead (1-3 Division I) answered with a solid offensive drive.

The Blue Waves’ offense was humming as Aiden Daniels and Madison Murrell took turns running the ball in a new offensive scheme that features both backs in the backfield. Daniels ran for 13 yards and Murrell added another 10 on the drive. QB Maurice Scott then took off on a huge scramble of his own, following blockers deep into the opponent’s side of the field for a 27-yard gain. Scott capped the drive by connecting with Danny Healy in the corner of the end zone for a 25-yard touchdown completion. 

Healy then intercepted a Sachem East pass on the next series to seemingly shift the momentum back in favor of the Blue Waves. The Arrows, however, shook off the turnover and rattled off 27 consecutive points prior to play being suspended.

Daniels finished with eight carries totaling 34 yards. Scott rushed for 65 yards on nine attempts. Healy, who amassed more than 200 yards receiving last week, notched the lone touchdown catch. 

“There was a lot of different claims about what happened at the end of the game,” Riverhead Athletic Director Brian Sacks said in a phone interview Monday. “We will be doing a full investigation through the week. I have a lot of meetings scheduled. The referees were within their right to cancel the game. By Section XI and New York State rules, if the referee feels unsafe, they can end the game.”

Riverhead will travel to Central Islip (1-3 Division I) Friday for a game under the lights at 6pm.

“We have winnable games coming up,” Grassman said. “We felt like we were getting better and today we just made too many mistakes to win. If we can just limit the mistakes, we will be OK for the rest of the year.”