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Kelly busy voice of Riverhead football

Pat Kelly broadcasts the play-by-play for WRIV 1390AM

Pat Kelly broadcasts the play-by-play for WRIV 1390AM during the second quarter of Riverhead High School's varsity football game vs. West Babylon at West Babylon Junior High School. (Oct. 14, 2011) Photo Credit: James Escher

Though it seems as though he's been doing it forever, even Pat Kelly, Voice of Riverhead Football, has an origin story.

And when a guy like Kelly speaks -- the same guy who's spent 24 years weaving stories out of downs and distances for 1390-WRIV radio -- it's probably best to let the quotation marks do the talking.

"His name was Hawk Woodson,'' Kelly said by way of introduction. Woodson, he said, was the one who cornered him at Riverhead's Stotzky Park in the summer of 1986 ("or '87 . . . it was a long time ago'') and shoved a microphone into his hand.

He'd never been an announcer before. But Woodson, who was something of a radio personality himself, saw potential in Kelly. And it just so happened that the local radio station had an announcer-sized hole to fill in the hearts and minds of Riverhead's lady softball enthusiasts.

"[Woodson] was the president of Lady Softball and he threw a mike in my hand and said, 'You know softball,' " Kelly said. "I was an umpire and he grabbed me because I wasn't umpiring that night . . . The people at that ill-fated radio station, they took a chance at me."

Ill-fated it was. After the station folded (it lasted only a few months after Kelly got the gig), Woodson took his talents to WRIV. When he discovered that Riverhead was going to broadcast its high school football games in 1988, he knew where to turn.

"I do play-by-play, I'm an analyst, I'm an engineer," said Kelly, 60, who recently moved to Manorville and works as a chemist at the Suffolk County Water Authority. "It's a lot of fun for the kids, and our station can be heard on the Web . . . so I have a number of happy grandparents."

In nearly a quarter-century, Kelly, a one-man crew, has called nearly every Riverhead football game. How many has he missed? "Very few,'' he said, "though I missed the first game of this season because I was getting married."

Though he doesn't keep running stats, Kelly abounds in information. He generally gets to games two hours early to chat with coaches, get lineups and, if home, set up his equipment, He calls in for away games. Halftime is spent parsing the high school football scene and sometimes "[going] on my rant about the power rating system."

"Power rating points," he said with the easy familiarity of having explained this before, "should not be the primary method of determining standings, before win-loss."

The argument -- and the voice making it -- have become a staple in the Riverhead community. Of course, that's not why he does it and not why he plans to keep doing it even though he moved out of the neighborhood this year.

"It's my escape," he said. "In my mind, I'm calling a Super Bowl . . . You forget about everything else and worry about two teams and a microphone, because when these kids go out and play, they're not playing for seven-figure contracts. It's for the love of the sport. It's pure. It's the real thing."

Couldn't have said it better.

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