Rye’s James Mackle grabs a Lavelle second-half strike.
Rye High Football
Rye/Harrison Part Deux: Garnets Grind Out 21-7 Win
By Mitch Silver
Can a Rye-Harrison football game really be ho-hum? Saturday’s certainly was. This rematch in the form of a Class A playoff game — played in lovely fall weather before half-empty Nugent Stadium stands just a week after the Garnets topped the Huskies in a 91st regular-season renewal of The Game — had all the zip and flair of the footnotes to the Mueller Report. Which was just how Rye Head Coach Dino Garr liked it.
“They’re a good team,” he said, “with a wonderful runner in junior Casey Judelson. But our defense had to learn how to play their triple-option offense a week ago, and the work our guys put in really showed. Plus, we got Preston back.”
“Preston” is senior co-captain Preston Greto, a 6-4, 276-pound tackle who plays both ways. He missed the previous four games, including round one of The Game, and he was eager to get back in the fray. Greto was a large part of the reason Harrison mounted very little in the way of an attack.
Another member of the walking wounded who’s also a two-way starter, Brendan Lavelle, returned last week from a sprained foot and played a big role for the Garnets at running back and linebacker. His cousin, fellow senior Declan Lavelle, went 16 of 25 for 205 yards and three touchdowns, including a beautiful hitch-and-go to tight end James Mackle that put Rye up by 14-0 midway through the second quarter.
That score followed a first-quarter screen pass to senior wideout Quinn Kelly, who would scamper 34 yards behind a convoy of blockers to get Rye on the scoreboard five minutes into the game. Freddie Clarke then nailed the first of his three PATs on the afternoon.
Between them, Mackle and Kelly would account for 12 completions and all three scores.
Add in Lucas Perez-Segnini’s two booming punts early on, the first of which forced the Huskies to start play on their own four-yard line, and you have the makings of an all- Garnet and Black day.
Things would have got even farther out of hand had Rye not been charged with five drive-stopping holding penalties (one declined) and two delay-of-game penalties.
Afterwards, Coach Garr said, “A bit of that is on me, but we’ve got to clean that up before we play again.”
This win makes it Rye’s 19th in 20 tries since 2003 against the once-feared Huskies, and Lavelle’s fifth victory in the series. How many other Garnet QBs can say they beat Harrison five times without a loss in their varsity careers?
On the other side of scrimmage, Section 1’s second-leading rusher, Judelson, provided nearly all of Harrison’s attack. He accounted for 69 yards on 16 carries. Quarterback Troy Straus capped a 13-play, 75-yard drive — the visitors’ only sustained push all afternoon — with a touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter.
I met the with a few of the Harrison fans in the stands at halftime and asked them, “Why has Rye been so dominant since the century began? Your team dominated the ‘80s and ‘90s. Why not now?”
I received a variety of answers, including, “I think the culture in town has changed. A lot of the new families moving into town aren’t as football-oriented as we were.”
An older woman decried the way Harrison’s current Superintendent of Schools “over-emphasizes academics and ignores athletics.”
One of the football alums gave another reason. “It’s all the kids who choose to attend Iona Prep or Stepinac instead of playing for their hometown team.”
A petite woman ventured, “The Huskies will be a much better team next year. I guarantee it!” When I asked her why, she said, “I’m Casey Judelson’s mom. He’ll be a senior next year.”
With the two Lavelles, Greto, and the entire Rye receiving corps, among others, graduating in June, a tougher Harrison team might yet pump some life back into this rivalry. For now, though, the Huskies’ season is over while Rye will go on to host sixth-seeded Fox Lane this Friday at 7 p.m.