Riverhead's endgame philosophy Saturday was simple: more of Moore.
Junior running back Ryun Moore carried seven consecutive times, including the clinching touchdown with 1:15 left on a 3-yard run up the gut as the Blue Waves defeated Smithtown East, 39-27, in a Suffolk II shootout before a standing-room-only crowd at Riverhead.
"I had no problem with the load," said Moore, who had a busy day with 29 carries for 145 yards and two touchdowns and is also a starting linebacker. "I didn't know I'd get the ball every time at the end, but the coaches told me ball security was the most important thing."
In fact, there were no turnovers by either team, just plenty of big plays on offense. Moore's other touchdown was on a 2-yard run, but most of the scoring came on long-distance calls. Like when Smithtown East's Nick Cutrone dialed up a spectacular 81-yard kickoff return for a first-quarter touchdown that produced a 14-8 lead. Or when Steven Reid redialed with a 56-yard scoring reception on a deep sideline pass from Ken Simco (9-for-18, 184 yards, three touchdowns) to give the Blue Waves a 15-14 lead.
Clearly, there were no roaming charges, as the Bulls' John Daniggelis (11-for-22 for 187 yards and two touchdowns) lofted a 35-yard touchdown pass to Jesse Whiting for a 21-15 lead that was erased when Reid again formed a perfect connection with Simco for a 45-yard touchdown and a 22-21 lead that the Blue Waves held onto despite some stress.
Riverhead made a statement to open the second half with a 12-play drive that covered 63 yards and chewed up 7:02. It ended with Simco throwing a 20-yard TD pass to Mark Andrejack on a screen pass. "They have a lot of two-way starters so that drive was key," Riverhead coach Leif Shay said. "They were on the field a long time then had to stay out there on offense. I thought we wore them down a little."
That showed up when the Bulls' offensive line could not adequately protect Daniggelis in the second half when he took three of his five sacks, two by defensive end Troy Trent, and was under steady duress. Daniggelis produced one more big play in the third quarter, a dizzying 41-yard scamper on a quarterback draw that brought East to within 32-27.
"The kid is quick and elusive," Trent said, "but we eventually shut him down. As a d-end, my job was to make sure he wasn't stepping up in the pocket and to hold outside contain."
Still, Daniggelis nearly pulled it out. He had the Bulls driving with two consecutive first downs midway through the fourth quarter. But on third-and-nine he was harassed by Trent into an incompletion and his fourth-down pass that would've gained first-down yardage was dropped with 5:40 left.
Then it was Moore to the left, Moore to the right -- for gains of 12 and 17 yards -- and on second-and-goal from the 3, it was one Moore time -- up the middle for the touchdown that ensured the victory.
"It was a nerve-wracking game," Moore said. "It wasn't fun when we couldn't stop them. Then I got in a rhythm and built up my confidence. I definitely got better as the game went on."