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09/16/11 10:13pm
09/16/2011 10:13 PM

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Charles Bartlett of Riverhead found running room against Hauppauge, picking up four touchdowns and 132 yards.

Coming off an intoxicating performance in which they passed the football for almost 400 yards, it was as if the Riverhead Blue Waves wanted to prove a couple of points. Firstly, they wanted to serve a reminder that they can run the ball, too (just ask Charles Bartlett and Jeremiah Cheatom). They also let it be known that they aren’t afraid to try an onside kick — even three times in a row.

Bartlett ran for a career-high four touchdowns — all in the first half — on a brisk Friday night as Riverhead ran its record to 2-0 in Suffolk County Division II with a 45-13 thumping of the Hauppauge Eagles. Cheatom ran for another Riverhead touchdown as well.

“No surprise,” Quinn Funn, who played wide receiver and cornerback for Riverhead, said afterward. “I knew how the game was going to come out. If we come out hard, that’s going to be like that every game.”

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead's Reggie Moore intercepted a pass in the first quarter.

The running game was a prominent feature. In their season-opening upset of the East Islip Redmen, the Blue Waves had 29 running plays against 38 pass plays. On Friday night they ran the ball 51 times and threw 23 passes.

The results were impressive. Bartlett and Cheatom both surpassed 100 yards as the Blue Waves totaled 278 rushing yards. Bartlett, a senior, consumed 132 yards on 19 carries, and Cheatom, a sophomore, collected 101 yards from 23 runs.

It was all part of a fine-tuned offense that produced 27 first downs and 459 yards in total offense. Riverhead put up 513 yards worth of offense against East Islip.

“We wanted to show teams that we are [multi-faceted], and can run and pass,” said Funn.

More running was part of the plan.

“We want to be a little more balanced in our attack, and we look at each game plan differently and try to take advantage of areas where they’re weaker,” Riverhead Coach Leif Shay said. “Yeah, we want to be a little more balanced. We have a dynamic back in Charles and a young guy in Jeremiah, so, we want to get those guys involved as well.”

Riverhead quarterback Ryan Bitzer, who passed for a career-high 395 yards against East Islip, looked sharp again, throwing his fifth touchdown pass of the year, a 31-yarder to Mike Hinchy for the game’s only points in the first quarter. Bitzer went 14 of 22 for 181 yards and an interception.

That combination of offensive threats, operating out of a no-huddle offense that allowed Riverhead to control the tempo, gave Hauppauge (1-1) a lot to think about.

GARRET MEADE PHOTO | Riverhead's Tim Clement attempted to catch a pass, but Hauppauge's Matt Snyder broke the play up.

“They could pretty much offensively do what they wanted, and they had a good mix,” Hauppauge Coach Joe Patrovich said. “They do a very good job. They stretch you. First of all, they make you pack it in because of the two tight ends or that look. So you got to pack it in because they’re a very good zone team and a very good inside running team. And then when you pack it in, they have threats on the perimeter that they can throw it to. I just think they’re very impressive in what they do and how they scheme offensively.”

Funn scooped up a fumble and ran the ball 34 yards to the end zone for an apparent touchdown. It was nullified by a personal foul, though.

No matter, Riverhead kept moving the ball on that series until a four-yard run by Bitzer for his second touchdown of the season. Jeffrey Pittman’s point-after kick stretched Riverhead’s lead to 38-0 by the time the third quarter was 4 minutes 40 seconds old.

Kurt Carter replaced Bitzer at quarterback later in the third quarter. The first and only pass he threw was picked off by Dominic Confredo and returned 54 yards for a touchdown with 3:16 left in the third quarter.

The Hauppauge fans who came out for their team’s home opener had something else to cheer about when C. J. Ciserano made a couple of nice moves that helped him to a 25-yard touchdown run 4:24 into the fourth quarter.

Pittman executed three straight onside kicks in the first half, the second of which was successfully recovered by teammate Anthony Chiaramonte, setting up a 12-yard scoring run by Bartlett.

Bartlett, a back with a reputation for being able to get the tough yards, also scored on a pair of two-yard runs and a five-yarder.

“I felt great about how we can pass the ball and also how we can run the ball,” said Bartlett, who already has five touchdowns to his credit this young season. “Also, our line did fantastic, gave me lanes to run through and, again, tough yards [are] really what won the game for us. Our mental toughness won the game for us.”

Hauppauge, a No. 11 seed that has only one starter on either side of the ball back from last year, was outgunned by No. 6 Riverhead.

“They’re what we thought they were,” Patrovich said. “I don’t know if they’re what the league thought they were coming in because their seed is not that high, but I think they’re a very talented team.”

Two games into the season, Bartlett has noticed a difference from last year’s Riverhead team. “Our mentality is win at all costs,” he said. “We didn’t have that last year and we have it this year.”

Shay said: “This is a team with a lot of heart, a team with a lot of pride. We’re not going to sit and rest on our laurels. We’re going to keep on pressing and try to win as many games as we can.”

Be it through the air or on the ground.

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08/26/11 3:58pm
08/26/2011 3:58 PM

BOB LIEPA PHOTO | Jeremiah Cheatom scored 22 rushing touchdowns for Riverhead's junior varsity team last year and then ran for two more in his varsity debut.

Twenty-two rushing touchdowns in a season is quite a feat, but it wasn’t all those touchdowns that Jeremiah Cheatom rang up in seven games for the Riverhead High School junior varsity football team last season that marked the highlight of his freshman year. No, it was the two touchdowns that Cheatom ran for in his varsity debut that he liked best.

Three days before the Blue Waves’ final game of a 2-6 season, Cheatom received word that he was being pulled up to the varsity team to be given a look.

“I was excited, but also nervous,” he recalled, “but I was ready.”

There was no doubting that.

The Blue Waves took a peak into their future and liked what they saw. Cheatom, the touchdown maker, proved to be a handful that day, spoiling things for the Smithtown East Bulls, whose new field turf was christened with a 40-13 loss to the Blue Waves. The young running back bolted for a pair of second-quarter touchdowns and finished the day with 64 yards from 11 carries.

BOB LIEPA PHOTO | Reggie Moore, a senior H-back, is one of several ball-carrying options for Riverhead.

Cheatom may have opened some eyes — at least those of outsiders — that day, but his teammates knew what he could do.

“I knew about Jeremiah Cheatom,” Charles Bartlett, a senior running back and middle linebacker for the Blue Waves, said. “I knew him for a long time. I knew he was good, and I knew that was going to happen. He’s going to be a good running back. I told him just to go play his game, and he did that.”

Riverhead’s junior quarterback, Ryan Bitzer, said: “I heard all the coaches talking about him. I saw some of his games on the JV, and he was tearing it up there, too.”

With no playoffs to look forward to for the first time in five years, the Blue Waves could at least take comfort in knowing that they had another capable ball carrier in their corral. Now it looks as if the Blue Waves will hit the ground running with their running game in 2011.

On the same day that Cheatom began his varsity career, Bartlett banged out 125 yards and a touchdown on 12 rushing attempts. He finished the season as the team’s leading rusher with 773 yards from 138 carries (5.6 yards per carry) as well as four touchdowns.

Bitzer has other weapons at his disposal. In addition to Bartlett and Cheatom, junior Jeff Pittman is another viable starter at tailback. Bitzer can also place the ball in the hands of Reggie Moore, a senior H-back who has already made a name for himself as a scoring threat.

BOB LIEPA PHOTO | Riverhead quarterback Ryan Bitzer is anticipating a more consistent running game this year.

All of them offer speed and elusive moves, enough to give opposing defenses cause to shudder.

“We have a lot of speed back there,” Coach Leif Shay said. “Last year’s running game was sporadic. We had days when we ran the ball well, and we had days when we struggled a bit. This year’s running game is still a work in progress. We have some big guys up front, but they haven’t worked together. We certainly have the running back depth and speed this year.”

Bitzer said: “Last season we had a lot of speed, but we weren’t really consistent, so I think it will be a lot different this year. I think we’ll be faster, stronger, and more consistent, and I think the line will be a little better, too.”

What’s more, Shay said the offense has more balance.

Shay said Cheatom, who runs a 4.7-second 40-yard dash, reminded him of Chris Harris, a former standout running back for Riverhead. In at least one aspect, Bitzer sees a similarity with Miguel Maysonet, the former Hansen Award winner for Riverhead who now plays for Stony Brook University. “He’s fast, he’s strong, and he sees the field good like when Miguel did when he was here,” said Bitzer.

Through offseason workouts in the weight room, Cheatom is stronger, but he said he is also smarter than he was a year ago. His path has been helped by Bartlett, who has given him the benefit of his knowledge.

But part of what Cheatom does on the football field is instinctual.

“He has a great forward lean,” Shay said. “He gets you that extra five yards. He’s got great vision. He sees cutback lanes where other kids can’t, so he definitely has the potential to see and do a lot of things.”

Cheatom said: “When I’m in the backfield, it’s sort of like slow motion. I can see the play before it’s going to happen.”

Playing the role of prophet, Cheatom said: “We’re a solid running team. We’re going to get a lot of yards this year.”

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