Newfield's Jim Kerwick (7) comes down with the football on...

Newfield's Jim Kerwick (7) comes down with the football on his team's second consecutive successful onside kickoff in the first half. (Sept. 19, 2010) Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

It was a picture perfect Sunday morning. A day usually reserved for rest on Long Island's high school gridiron. But this was no ordinary Sunday.

Severe thunderstorms that peppered Long Island on Thursday postponed or suspended 35 football games, including Riverhead's night game against Suffolk Division II rival Newfield.

"We were so hyped and ready to go Thursday," hard-hitting Newfield middle linebacker Ron Denig said. "It was hard to wait two more days. I couldn't come out of that locker room any faster."

The normally serene Sunday morning was shattered by the electric atmosphere of this Division II showdown in which rugged defense was the theme. From the opening kickoff to the final hit on Riverhead quarterback Ryan Bitzer, it was all about the resilience of a Newfield defensive unit that refused to yield a point in a 12-0 shutout before 800 people at Nick DeCillis Field in Selden.

Newfield allowed 183 yards on 57 plays and had four interceptions, including two by Mike Silva and one each by Will Veintimilla and Jesse DiLevo. Newfield also recovered two fumbles on onside kicks.

"We play our game with attitude and total aggression," said Denig, who had 11 tackles. "We were a young team last year with no senior leadership. And most of us were only sophomores and we learned some valuable lessons. And now everyone has bought into the team chemistry and we're playing well."

Newfield (2-0) served notice on the first play from scrimmage. Junior halfback Shervon Barthelmy went on a counter right, followed blocks from Denig, at fullback, and junior tackle Dan Sweeney, and swept down the right sideline for 76 yards to the Riverhead 2. Two plays later, Silva, from his quarterback position, bulled in from 1 yard out.

"We had five interior linemen injured and unable to play and the defense was asked to elevate its game and get the win," said junior linebacker Julian Santiago, who had 13 tackles, including four for a loss. "We'll get some respect in the division after a win over Riverhead."

Santiago looked around and pointed to the five teammates, all interior linemen, who were sidelined by injuries. "We asked different personnel to come in here and play well," he said. "And they all pulled together."

Newfield senior cornerback DiLevo halted a Riverhead drive with an interception at the Wolverines' 49 with 4:33 left in the first quarter. Silva followed two big blocks down the right sideline and wove his way into the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown run for a 12-0 lead with 1:49 left.

Riverhead (0-2) opened the second half with a methodical, yet impressive, 14-play, 59-yard drive to the Wolverines' 1. But Denig and linebacker Tom DiuBaldo stopped Eric Bartlet on a third-and-1 run at the goal line to set up the biggest stop of the game.

"We all play special teams and there's a lot of pride out there," said DiuBaldo, who had seven tackles and a sack. "There was no way they were scoring."

He was right. Santiago penetrated into the backfield on fourth-and-inches to nail Bartlet on a pitch right for a 4-yard loss to stymie the Blue Waves' scoring threat.

"They're a phenomenal group of kids," Riverhead coach Leif Shay said. "You have to be impressed with that defense and the goal-line stand. They made the big plays. And they're a very physical team."

That's respect.

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