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Football: No. 3 Riverhead hosts No. 6 Deer Park in first round of playoffs

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(Updated Nov. 5)  The start time of Saturday’s playoff game has been changed to 1:30 p.m., Riverhead Central School District athletic director Bill Groth announced today.

The bracket for the first round of the Division II playoffs is set.  No. 3 Riverhead (6-2) will face No. 6 Deer Park (6-2) in Riverhead at 1:30 p.m.

Though their records may be the same, their quality of competition definitely wasn’t.  The power rankings vaulted the Blue Waves to the No. 3 seed for a reason. With the No. 1 preseason seed, Riverhead had to play the toughest regular season schedule, facing the eight teams seeded directly behind them. Deer Park, on the other hand played the bottom half of Division II.

It makes a difference.

Deer Park’s opponents played to a 25-39 record. Riverhead’s opponents combined for a record of 35-29. Out of three games against opponents with winning records, Deer Park only beat one. They lost to (7-1) Bellport and (5-3) East Islip but did manage to beat (5-3) Half Hollow Hills East by a hefty margin, 40-19.

The talk has been about Deer Park’s running game. They’ve rushed for 1,707 yards while throwing for only 776.  Jasawn Thompson is the feature back. He averages around 20 touches a game and has run for 1,379 yards, which ranks him fifth on Long Island.  He’s scored 18 touchdowns this season. Against Half Hollow Hills East, Thompson ran for 286 yards on just 23 carries to the tune of four touchdowns. The kid can flat-out run, there’s no doubt about it — but can he do it against Riverhead’s defense?

There’s been a constant improvement for Riverhead’s defense throughout the season. Injuries have forced guys in and out of the lineup, but as a unit, when fully healthy, as they were in Bellport, you can see what is possible. The Blue Waves kept the Clippers without a first down through the first three quarters. Granted, the weather conditions weren’t the greatest for passing and that allowed the defense to key in on the run; nobody has really been able to run the ball against the Blue Wave defense.

Ryun Moore, who was forced out of the Bellport game by an injury, should be back in uniform on Saturday, his brother Rasheen Moore, who was part of the only Riverhead team to win a Long Island Championship, said.

“He’s good,” Moore said.  “Just a little bruise on the leg. He’ll be all right. With the weather and all that, he couldn’t move but he’s good now. He’ll be ready.”

Though Raheem Brown filled in as best as someone could at running back, he prefers to lead the way as the fullback while Moore makes all the cuts and highlight-film bursts.
After giving up 25 points a game in the first half of the season, the Blue Waves have cut that number in half to 12 for second half of the season.

The qualifying round of the playoffs always brings its fair share of upsets but so long as the Blue Waves can slow down the legs of Thompson, there shouldn’t be an upset in Riverhead Saturday afternoon.