The college offers started coming in about midseason and continued throughout the fall. Newfield’s electric halfback Elijah Riley, who emerged as one of Long Island’s most dynamic football players this season, started to juggle the various opportunities.
“It was all so new and so much fun,” he said. “I was getting some attention and it kept building as the season wore on.”
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With Riley at the epicenter of Newfield’s finest football season in the school’s 58-year history, it was time to make a decision on his next challenge — college.
It was much easier than Riley thought. He chose to play football for Army.
“I chose West Point for all the right reasons,” said Riley who earned Newsday’s 54th Carl A. Hansen Award, presented to Suffolk’s top player by the Suffolk County High School Football Coaches Association. “I loved the school. The visit really hit me. I was standing there thinking I could be a part of this place and have the opportunity to play football and get that great education. I appreciated all of the coaches that took the time to recruit me and make me feel wanted.”
The demand for the 6-foot, 200-pound Riley came during Newfield’s epic run into the school history books. The Wolverines were 12-0, won three games by shutout, and beat MacArthur, 41-33, to capture the Long Island Class II championship at Hofstra’s Shuart Stadium. Riley scored three touchdowns in the championship game.
“We’re all every excited for him,” Newfield coach Joe Piccininni said. “He’s perfect for West Point. He’s an extremely talented player. But what he also leaves as a huge part of his legacy is that he was the ultimate team player. And isn’t that what the Army is all about. He epitomizes true grit, unselfish play, teamwork and hard work. And he’s a great leader.”
Riley was a force on both sides of the ball at halfback and defensive back. He was also a game-changer on special teams.
“We never really took him off the field,” Piccininni said. “He was a potential playmaker on every snap.”
Riley rushed for 1,012 yards and scored a school-record 31 touchdowns. He finished with 1,934 all-purpose yards as Newfield set the Suffolk record for points scored in a season with 518.
He also earned the Tom Cassese Award presented to Suffolk’s top defensive back. He allowed only three pass receptions, had three interceptions, forced two fumbles and made 66 tackles, including 45 solos.
“He was the best all-around player on Long Island,” said Newfield quarterback Ryan Klemm. “When he’s on the field, great things happen.”
Now, he’s ready to start a new chapter at Army.
“It’s an honor to commit to West Point,” Riley said. “It’s truly a feeling of accomplishment that’s hard to explain. I want to thank all my coaches and teammates who made it possible for me. I want them to know, that without them, I wouldn’t be in this position. I’m super excited about my decision.”