On the eve of the Long Island Class II championship game, football is, of course, the favorite sport of Riverhead star quarterback Ryan Bitzer . . . but that's just a temporary condition. Beginning next week, when he joins the basketball team, hoops moves to No. 1 on his priority list. Then next spring, whenever the Blue Waves are done on the court, Bitzer will shift his focus to the lacrosse field, a sport in which he already has signed with Stony Brook.
"I like to say that my favorite sport is the one I'm playing at the time," Bitzer, truly a man for all seasons, said with a smile. "I enjoy the experience of all three sports. Every sport helps me with the other sport I play. I'm happy I play all three."
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If the Blue Waves are to defeat Garden City Saturday in a noon matchup at Stony Brook's LaValle Stadium, it is likely that Bitzer's strong right arm will play a large role.
"He's in his third year as a starter and is an exceptional athlete," Riverhead coach Leif Shay said. "He's remarkably accurate with his throws and he doesn't rattle under pressure."
That was evident all season for the Blue Waves (9-2) as Bitzer passed for 1,839 yards and 18 touchdowns, completing 62 percent of his passes. But it has been especially true in the playoffs. In wins over West Babylon, Whitman and North Babylon, Bitzer is 36-for-51 (71 percent) for 642 yards and seven touchdowns.
His favorite target, as it was all season, is Quinn Funn, who lives up to his surname with acrobatic catches and emotional play. He caught seven passes for 153 yards and three touchdowns in the Blue Waves' 52-20 victory over North Babylon in Sunday's Suffolk II title game and has 13 TD catches this season. "He always goes and gets the ball," Bitzer said.
He and Funn are longtime friends who had the same vision after helping their middle school team to a 6-0 record in the eighth grade, Bitzer said. "We talked about wanting to do something special as seniors," he said. "Leave something behind."
Bitzer has another weapon -- exciting running back Jeremiah Cheatom, who may help create that senior legacy, even though he's only a junior. Cheatom has rushed for 1,674 yards and 14 touchdowns, including 349 yards in the three playoff wins.
It's clear Bitzer has several favorite players, too.