At 8 a.m. Saturday morning, Ryan Bitzer's home was abuzz with excitement.
As Bitzer, Riverhead High School's star Blue Waves quarterback, prepared to battle Garden City on Saturday at noon at Stony Brook University for the Class II Long Island Championships -- last week, the Riverhead Blue Waves took the Suffolk County Division II Championship -- his parents say the game will be bittersweet.
"It's the last game of his career," said Bitzer's father, Richard.
His son, Bitzer said, began playing football when he was eight years old. "There are probably about 10 kids on that team who have all played together, all this time," he said.
Football is a family affair for the Bitzers. "Football is Ryan's favorite sport to watch," his father said. "We truly enjoy our Saturday football days."
His son, Bitzer said, is a triple threat, playing not only football but lacrosse and basketball.
In November, Ryan, 17, committed to play Division I lacrosse at Stony Brook University, and was a recipient of the highest athletic scholarship bestowed.
“Ryan is a very talented athlete,” said Varsity Lacrosse Coach Vic Guadagnino. “He does the job in the classroom, on the court, and out on the field in multiple sports. Not only is he a great athlete, but he is a very special person, who is a pleasure to coach.”
Ryan, who plans to major in business in college, has always made his family proud, his father said.
Saturday's game, he said, "is bittersweet. It's our last game. We kept hoping that there would be another game next week -- but we know that's not going to be the case. For us, this is the end of the road."
With two daughters, Taryn and Jordyn, already graduated from Riverhead High School, Ryan is the youngest. "He's the last," his father said.
But, Bitzer added, the family still has the chance to watch their star athlete compete in basketball and lacrosse this season. "He's so active," he said. "He's got basketball practice tomorrow night. He'll go straight from this game to that."
Ryan is the starting point guard on the basketball team.
Watching his son soar on the field has been a gratifying journey, Bitzer said. "Ryan has always loved sports; he's a three-sport player," he said. "But most important, he's a 90 student who's always kept up his grades."
Looking back on all the years of carpooling and driving their son to various practices, Bitzer said excitement over Ryan's athletic career has been something the whole family has shared.
Early Saturday morning, after they dropped Ryan off at Riverhead High School, the whole family was up, getting ready for the big game. "We're very excited," Bitzer said. "His mom is wearing her 'Ryan' T-shirt. Our daughter took the day off from work. It's a family thing."
Ryan's mom, Barbara, said as parents, they were brimming with pride for their son and the entire Riverhead team. She thanked Coach Leif Shay for getting the team so far. "I am so excited about this game," she said. "Ever since the season started, my husband said, 'We're going to the LIC," she said. "And here we are, at the LIC."
But, she agreed the game triggered a mix of bittersweet emotions. "I'm going to cry," she said. "It's going to be a very emotional day for me, win or lose."
The "silver lining," she said, is that there are still two other sports to look forward to during her son's senior year.
Still, football has always held a special place in her family's heart, she said. "We really do enjoy football. We've got a really tight family in Riverhead; the whole Riverhead team has just been wonderful."
Her son, Barbara said, was "pretty much pegged to be quarterback from the very beginning." Always athletic, he's played baseball and wrestled for many years before narrowing it down to his current three.
Saturday's game will mark the second time in five years that Riverhead has a chance to take home the Long Island Championship. In 2008, Riverhead became the first team in Long Island history to finish with a 12-0 record. The Blue Waves captured the Long Island Class II championship with a 42-6 win over Elmont High School.
Despite his long string of accolades, Barbara said her son is a team player. "If they win, it's a win for the team," she said. "He's poised, laid back -- and humble. He's always been a great kid."