To close out the regular season, the Rye Garnets won four straight, outscoring opponents 152 to 40, and amassing a staggering 1,507 yards of total offense.
The team’s dominance was eye-catching, but whether their momentum would carry into the playoffs was on the minds of both players and fans heading into the Class B bracket as the No. 2 overall seed.
That question was quickly answered when the Garnets opened postseason play against Nyack at home Oct. 27. They scored 33 unanswered points in the first half, came away with a 33-18 victory, and followed that up a week later with a 41-13 blowout of the Ardsley Panthers.
After the win against Ardsley, Coach Dino Garr said, “It was a very gratifying win with all phases of the team performing with precision, especially in the first half. We had many outstanding efforts by the offensive line, backs, and receivers, A.J. [Miller] had total control of the offense, making excellent decisions.”
Against the Panthers, the Garnet offense fired on all cylinders, scoring three touchdowns in the air and another three on the ground, compiling 383 total yards, and converting a season high 83 percent of third downs over the course of the game.
Defensively, the team was led by senior Koen Terlouw, who set the tone with multiple tackles and a crucial fumble recovery, which ultimately set up a Garnet touchdown late in the second quarter. “I think we played our hearts out today,” Koen said right after sustaining an unfortunate knee injury late in the fourth. “Ardsley’s a tough team, but we came out stronger. We beat them before, and we did it again.”
The Garnets opened the scoring against Ardsley with a three-yard run from running back Chris Iuliano, the first of two scores on the day from the junior, who has now amassed a whopping 16 touchdowns in just 10 games. Senior quarterback A.J. Miller threw touchdown passes to Charlie Stevens, Archer Fenton, and Jack Acciavatti, and came within a hair of duplicating his total of 249 yards in his previous game at Ardsley with 248 on Friday.
It was a tough loss for Ardsley, which came into the game 7-1, with the team’s only previous loss coming against Rye.
“I couldn’t be prouder of my guys,” Ardsley head coach Dan DiFalco said after the game. “We left every ounce of our blood, sweat, and tears out on that field today. Rye’s a phenomenal football team, a phenomenal program, and I wish them all the best in the finals.”
Against Nyack, the Garnets were led by junior Jake Kessner’s best performance of the season. Kessner had 167 yards receiving and two scores in the win against the Red Hawks, including both 49-yard and 63-yard grabs in the second quarter.
“I love that A.J. had faith in me, just throwing it up and letting me run for it,” Kessner said. “I think that chemistry has been growing for years and I think it’s really showing right now.” Kessner’s 167 yards were the highest single game receiving total since Rafferty McSweeney amassed 180 yards against John Jay in 2022.
Defensively against Nyack, the Garnets had an interception from Andrew Wilmarth, and three solo tackles each from Acciavatti and Terlouw.
What’s next for the Garnets may prove to be their biggest test of the season, as the team prepares for the Section 1 Championship November 11 against Pleasantville, which last year made it to the state championship, and has yet to lose a game all season.
Garnets Return to Class A Football After One-Year Absence
The Rye Garnet football team, which dropped from Class A to Class B within Section I this season because of lower school enrollment, will return next year to Class A – their home for the previous 13 seasons.
This year, the Garnets played the likes of Ardsley, Nyack, and Sleepy Hollow, but because of this change, their opponents during the regular season next year will likely be more familiar foes, like Somers, Yorktown, and most importantly, Harrison.
Because of Rye’s Class B classification this year, the 96th version of “The Game” was played on a steamy summer afternoon in September, in week 0. That’s when teams are allowed to play opponents outside their class designation in an exhibition-style matchup.
Next year, when the game returns to Rye, the contest will once again be played with implications greater than town pride, in October, when it has traditionally been played for decades.
Susan Dullea, Rye’s Athletic Director, explained that school enrollment numbers are “drawn from a snapshot of Rye High School’s class size at a given moment in time throughout a previous school year.”
Next year, Dullea reported, three other sports – soccer, baseball, and softball – will move up to Class A, and basketball will move up to AA. The enrollment requirements for these sports are set every academic year, and cutoff points for each sport vary.
Some sports — including football, lacrosse, volleyball, cross-country, ice hockey, and cheerleading — are treated differently, because not every school offers them. Those are known as variation sports, meaning their class depends in part on how many other teams are playing that sport.
Coaches, families, and administrators view the return to Class A in different ways. Dullea believes that the impact varies by sport. “You play where you fall, and in most sports it’s irrelevant until the postseason,” she said. “Take girls soccer, for example, they’ve beaten two AAA teams as a Class A program.”
For other players and families, however, what class the team plays in matters a lot. Several of Rye’s star football players from last year took their talents to private schools in search of scholarship opportunities and stronger competition.
Moving up to Class A may be a mixed blessing for Rye football.
In their most recent 13-year stretch within Class A, Rye has been unable to win a state championship. Within Class B before that, the Garnets won three state championships – in 2005, 2006, and 2008.
While the return to Class A will mean stronger competition and a more meaningful clash with Harrison, it will also make winning a championship more difficult. If Rye wins the Class B championship this year, it would be their fourth title in their last five Class B campaigns.