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Riverhead football in rebuilding mode

Riverhead head football coach Leif Shay during a

Riverhead head football coach Leif Shay during a road game against West Islip on Saturday Sept. 12, 2015. Credit: Richard T. Slattery

Though the number of players is low, the spirit is high around the Riverhead football team this season.

“If we keep working hard and keep developing, we should be good,” senior running back and defensive back William Sanders said. “We need everyone to stay healthy.”

But, unfortunately, that hasn’t happened for the Blue Waves, who have about 28 varsity players.

John Anderson, the lone returning starter from last season’s playoff team is out indefinitely with a dislocated right elbow. Anderson was expected to play center and defensive end. His return is uncertain according to coach Leif Shay.

“It’s obviously a tough thing,” said Shay of Anderson’s injury. “But we’re going to develop and grow as a team and find our identity. All we can do is go out every day and get better and show improvement.”

Riverhead, seeded eighth in Suffolk Division II, boasts the top record the last five seasons combined in the division at 36-15. (Newfield is second at 33-18). The Blue Waves, who won a Long Island Class II championship in 2008, captured back-to-back county titles in 2012 and 2013. After a 7-3 record in 2014, Riverhead lost to West Islip in a first-round playoff game last season and ended up 4-5.

“We’re going in as underdogs,” Sanders said, “but we’re out to prove everyone wrong.”

The Blue Waves will look to senior wide receiver and defensive back Tommy Powers, as well as junior two-way linemen Joe Stimpfel and Jayson Brewer, and newcomer and junior wide receiver and defensive end Darnell Chandler.

“We’re in rebuilding mode,” said Shay after a recent practice. “Our numbers have dropped.”

Shay, one of the more experienced coaches in Suffolk II entering his 18th season, knows how tough his division is.

“[Number-one seed] Hills West is loaded. They have a bunch of guys who can run and catch in that spread offense,” Shay said. “West Islip and North Babylon are very good, and you’ll be hearing a lot about Hills East and Deer Park.”

Still, there is hope in Riverhead for this season. Just ask senior tight end and linebacker Brian Moulton, who watched the Blue Waves win back-to-back division titles as an eighth and ninth grader.

“We want to give this season our best shot,” said Moulton, who had 43 tackles a year ago. “We’re going to shoot for an LIC and, hopefully, get to the top.”

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