By Desirée Keegan
Centereach senior Alec Kiernan, who scored four touchdowns and recorded three sacks Saturday, wasn’t just motived by the fact he was playing in his last homecoming game.
The team rallied around Kiernan after his brother, Danny, died Sept. 10. He said he had no idea how the circumstance would impact his performance in the 43-8 win over Riverhead Sept. 16, especially after missing practices on Thursday and Friday to attend the wake and funeral.
“Everyone was there for me today,” said the senior, who decided to play in the game to honor his brother. “Everyone played for Danny, my family, and we played the best game we’ve played in a while — especially in the second half. I felt confident on both sides of the ball.”
“Everyone was there for me today. Everyone played for Danny, my family, and we played the best game we’ve played in a while.”
Junior wide receiver and linebacker Devin Demetres set the tone early for the Cougars, returning the opening kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown and early 7-0 lead after sophomore Matt Robbert’s extra-point kick.
“That was our plan,” Demetres said of the play. “We knew on that play to hit hard and bring it all the way. We had great blocks. That score gave us momentum.”
He said Kiernan was also a momentum-booster.
“We made our blocks and played for him — when he played well we were playing well,” the junior said. “Kiernan is a team leader, he’s the captain and everyone looks up to him. He makes something out of nothing, and it helped us so much along the way.”
With a 10-yard run, Kiernan extended the lead to 14-0 with nearly seven minutes still remaining in the opening quarter. He broke up a Riverhead pass minutes later, but the Blue Waves were able to score on the drive. A 50-yard pass reception for a touchdown and a two-point conversion made the score 14-8.
In that moment, Centereach head coach Adam Barrett said he didn’t doubt what his now 2-0 team is capable of doing, and the Cougars proved it. Kiernan, who rushed for 213 yards on 23 carries, was slid the ball on a pass fake and ran 11 yards into the end zone. Robbert, who was perfect on the day, brought the score to 21-8 at the end of the first quarter.
“Special teams is huge,” Barrett said. “Last year it was a weakness of ours. We put in a lot of time in the offseason working on that, and we were able to get one early. A lot of these kids have been playing together since they were little, and these were the guys that were freshmen when I took over the program four years ago, so we came up together, and it’s nice to see them be so successful so early in the season.”
“[Alec Kiernan] plays like no other person I’ve ever met. He’s something else. He’s not human.”
Senior running back Vinny Liotta later scored on a 21-yard carry, and Demetres completed a two-point conversion for a 29-8 advantage at halftime.
“It was a great team effort,” Demetres said. “Coaches put us in place to get some opportunities, we took advantage of them, made adjustments at halftime.”
Kiernan excelled on both sides of the ball, as he continued to do most of the rushing for Centereach, and halted a handful of would-be Riverhead gains with tackles. He had two sacks and ran in the final of his four touchdowns in the fourth quarter.
“It’s a good feeling,” he said of his contributions in the win. “I did it for my brother. There’s no spot on the field where we were perfect. We can get better everywhere, and we’re going to.”
Kiernan refrained from providing additional details about the circumstances of his brother’s death, but his teammates and coaches alike think he’s already on the path to greatness.
“He elevates the game, even today,” Barrett said. “He’s just a great player and I’m proud of him. I’m glad he had the game that he did.”
Demetres joked he wasn’t sure of the species of the team’s running back.
“He plays like no other person I’ve ever met,” he said of Kiernan. “He’s something else. He’s not human. Today we proved we’re more than a team, we’re more than a family — we’re a brotherhood. We have each other’s backs no matter the circumstance.”