Two close friends, one terrific season, one Long Island football championship and two great college commitments.
Meet Elijah Riley and Jelani Greene, two of Newfield’s impact players during a fantastic run to the school’s first 12-0 season and the LI Class II title.
Together, Riley and Greene ended the recruiting process with commitments to the schools of their choice.
Riley — an electric halfback who emerged as one of Long Island’s most dynamic football players and earned Newsday’s 54th Carl A. Hansen Award, presented to Suffolk’s top player — opted to accept a scholarship offer to attend West Point.
Greene, who won the National Football Foundation Award as Suffolk’s top wide receiver, chose the University of New Hampshire in the Colonial Athletic Association. Both were Newsday All-Long Island first-team selections.
“It is an honor to announce my commitment on the same day as my teammate and dear friend Elijah Riley,” Greene said on Friday. “This is such a special day for both of us and for Newfield football. I’m excited about my future and looking forward to seeing Elijah succeed at the next level.”
The two became fast friends through offseason training workouts and seven-on-seven passing tournaments. When Greene became disenchanted with his role at Longwood High School, it was Riley who told him about the opportunity in the Newfield offense.
“I knew Jelani could come in and be a huge contributor to our team,” Riley said. “He’s a spectacular player with unbelievable talent. We were lucky to have him.”
With Riley at the epicenter of the finest football season in Newfield’s 58-year history, it was Greene who gave the Wolverines balance and a special-teams return threat.
Greene made the life-changing decision after his junior year of high school football.
“I had two catches for 40 yards and a touchdown and absolutely no game tape over nine games at Longwood,” he said. “I was stuck in a school with an offensive system that made me irrelevant. There was no way I could thrive in a run-first, run- all-the-time system. It worked for them and I’m glad my friends won the Class I championship. But it didn’t work for me at Longwood.”
So he left. Greene moved to Coram and enrolled at Newfield. The rest is history.
Greene became the last piece to the Wolverines’ championship puzzle. He caught 38 passes, scored 14 touchdowns and amassed 1,308 all-purpose yards.
The quarterback who benefited from Greene’s athleticism and speed was Ryan Klemm, who earned All-Long Island first-team honors with 30 scoring passes and 2,481 yards.
“Jelani was spectacular,” said Klemm, who owns every season and career passing record at Newfield. “I would put it out there and he would always come down with the ball. He was awesome.”
Greene became a highlight reel of sorts at Newfield games. His one-handed grabs, a la Odell Beckham Jr., drew instant attention.
“Jelani is a big-time playmaker and he gave us tremendous balance in our offense,” Newfield coach Joe Piccininni said. “He’s the complete package of great hands and speed and an excellent route-runner. The defense didn’t know if they should take away Jelani or Elijah on every play. They were unstoppable.”
With some of the focus shifted to stopping Greene’s downfield prowess, the 6-foot, 200-pound Riley keyed Newfield’s epic run into the school record 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 title game. He rushed for 1,012 yards, scored a school-record 31 touchdowns and 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.
Riley was ecstatic about his choice of Army and hopes to play in the NFL.
“I chose West Point for all the right reasons,” he said. “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. And then it would be on to play professionally.”
For Greene, Newfield was the right place to open the right doors. “The New Hampshire coaches have been very good to me,” he said. “I fit right into their spread offense.”
He seems to know how to find the right place.