Dino Garr and the Rye High School varsity football team prevailed in a 35-21 win over Pleasantville on Saturday, giving the Garnets their first Section 1 title since 2019.
It was a matchup that many had predicted early on would be the Class B championship in Section 1. After an early season loss to the Panthers in September, the Garnets exacted revenge largely thanks to an offensive line that helped Rye accumulate 203 rushing yards on the day and a defense that was able to contain Pleasantville’s best offensive weapons, the Picart twins.
The Panthers have established their dominance over opponents in recent history, and coming into the game, had not lost to a section 1 opponent in three years. Even with the 21-12 win over the Garnets in week three, however, Pleasantville recognized that things would be quite different this time around.
“We were realistic in understanding that the first time we played Rye, they weren’t at full strength,” Pleasantville coach Tony Becerra said after the game. “Going into the section championship game we would have to play extremely well, limit mistakes, and stay healthy… none of that happened.”
After an injury kept senior captain Charlie Saurack out of the earlier matchup against the Panthers, Saurack returned to form and anchored the Garnet defense on Saturday with three solo and five assisted tackles in the win, helping hold the Pleasantville rushing offense to less than 100 yards. Saurack, who has committed to playing football at Bowdoin, shared a late game combined sack with Koen Turloew and Jake Kessner, and the defense benefited from a combined nine solo tackles from captain Jason Gonzalez, senior Andrew Wilmarth, and juniors Archer Fenton and Owen Saya.
Offensively, the Garnets opened the game up with three quick scores. One came on an eight-yard touchdown pass from A.J. Miller to Jack Acciavatti; another on a double-pass trick play from Miller to his brother Carson Miller, who fired the ball 57 yards to a wide-open Fenton to give the Garnets a two-score lead, and a third on a six-yard rush from Chris Iuliano.
After Pleasantville cut the score to 21-14 before the half, the Garnets emerged from the break reignited, and were led by Iuliano’s continued reign over Section 1 defenders with two more scores in the second half — his 18th and 19th on the season.
Asked what the secret of his success was, Iuliano was quick to give credit to the men in front of him. “The line’s making holes, and I’m just finding them.”
The Garnets put things away with multiple fourth-down stops in the second half, holding the Panthers to just one score in the final 24 minutes.
“I’m so proud for our players, especially our seniors,” Coach Garr said following the victory. “We have 22 seniors who led us here. We’re not looking ahead besides our next opponent, we’re just going to enjoy this one tonight.”
Now the Garnets are set up for next Saturday’s clash at noon in the state quarterfinals against Port Jervis, and have an opportunity given their momentum, skills, and talent to win their first state title in 15 years.
Coach Becerra echoed this sentiment. “Having played in the Class B state tournament the last two seasons, it’s safe to say that Rye will go far,” he said. “And it wouldn’t surprise me in the least if Coach Garr and Rye win another state championship.”