Rye/Harrison Rivalry Goes Awry

Going into last Saturday’s Garnets-Huskies game at Nugent Field, the odds were on Harrison. What wasn’t in the cards was the melee that broke out when the Huskies decided to celebrate their 21-0 drubbing by jumping into Blind Brook, Rye’s privilege the previous nine years.

Published October 22, 2012 7:09 PM
3 min read

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Going into last Saturday’s Garnets-Huskies game at Nugent Field, the odds were on Harrison. What wasn’t in the cards was the melee that broke out when the Huskies decided to celebrate their 21-0 drubbing by jumping into Blind Brook, Rye’s privilege the previous nine years.


By Robin Jovanovich

 

Going into last Saturday’s Garnets-Huskies game at Nugent Field, the odds were on Harrison. What wasn’t in the cards was the melee that broke out when the Huskies decided to celebrate their 21-0 drubbing by jumping into Blind Brook, Rye’s privilege the previous nine years.

 

While emotions have often run high during the 80-plus-year-old rivalry, they had never required the activation of mutual aid response before. Rye Police Commissioner Bill Connors said 50 officers from 17 outside agencies showed up to help break up fights and calm the crowd of 6,000.

 

Rye PD had ten officers and eight auxiliary police at the game, “to help with the normal traffic congestion and crowd control,” said Connors. “We put our people on the bridge, some above the stadium. We had our trailer at the north end, so I ended up going to the Middle School parking lot.”

 

Connors called for assistance when he received a report of an unruly crowd of 200 or more. “Harrison residents rushed on the field after the win and Rye kids reportedly tried to prevent Harrison players and students access to the brook. In the fracas, kids ended up pushing the cops around a bit, too.” Connors added, “The fighting was primarily among spectators.”

 

There were two arrests at the game, one related, one not, said Connors. “A Harrison student was arrested for disorderly conduct after punching a Rye student in the mouth.” The Rye student didn’t press charges, however. The other arrest was for an ongoing harassment situation.

 

One verbal altercation turned violent. While a recent Rye High School graduate, was walking away after the game, he and a Harrison High student, who was in his car, were having words. The Harrison driver drove his car into the Rye resident and then fled the scene. The Rye man is on crutches and the suspect is being sought.

 

While there were unconfirmed reports of violence and threatening behavior by members of both communities all over town after the game, Connors said there was a disturbance in the village, outside Starbucks.

 

Steve Feeney, longtime Rye School District Board member, RHS alum, and the caller of The Game for many years, said he was pleased that “no current player from either Rye or Harrison was involved in any element of the altercation that occurred.” He noted that sometime during his tenure on the School Board (1991-2006), they had a tacit agreement with Harrison that the winning team would celebrate on their own field. Feeney said the “distraught” Rye team was unable to leave the field to return to the Field House due to the “choke point of the bridge where the Harrison supporters and team were celebrating the victory. The Rye team and coaches patiently waited a reasonable amount of time on the field patiently waiting for the bridge area to clear.” 

 

Doug Mello, who presents the Christopher Mello scholarship awards, in honor of his late son who played for the Garnets, to a player from each of the teams every year, expressed his sadness at the turn of events and his hope that the rivalry would regain its heart and civility. His comments follow.

————————————

A Spirited Rivalry

 

When colleagues at Verizon established a scholarship fund in the name of my beloved son Chris, to be awarded to both a Rye and a Harrison student athlete, it moved the Mello family like little else could in our grief. Saturday afternoon, two young men representing the best of their communities, honored Chris’ memory by accepting the scholarship grants. Over the past decade the still highly spirited yet remarkably civil annual football rivalry has brought pride and consolation — a tribute not only to Chris but to those lost by both communities that fateful day eleven years ago.

 

The incident following the game should sadden us all. It is truly telling. People forget, lose perspective. Once is forgivable; twice would be a tragedy.

I have asked each high school’s Athletic Director to read the Chris Mello Award citation to their team before each annual game going forward. Those who were too young to have experienced 9/11 can benefit from the teaching. Our communities can’t afford to forget. We are better than that.

 

— Doug Mello


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