The Rye High Football team closed out its regular season Oct. 21 toppling Sleepy Hollow 33-0, after defeating previously undefeated Ardsley a week earlier.
“Dino (Coach Garr) always has a team that can play… our goal was to stop the run and force them to pass, but our secondary is very inexperienced, and guys just missed tackles,” said Horsemen Head Coach Jerry Fario. Sleepy Hollow came into the game with a 2-5 record and Fario has had a difficult task acclimating his young team to a schedule that features seven playoff teams over the course of eight weeks.
Quarterback A.J. Miller took advantage of that inexperience early, throwing a 25-yard touchdown pass to junior wideout Tucker Hess, and another to tight end Jake Kessner, to give the Garnets an early cushion.
“We played pretty flawlessly in the first half,” Miller said. “There were a few mistakes we needed to get rid of, but every game we’ve continued to get better.”
The Garnets capped off their strong first half with a blocked field goal by junior Owen Saya, and a subsequent 55-yard return by senior defensive back Jack Acciavatti to put the Garnets up 27-0.
In the second half, the Garnets iced the game with a run from sophomore quarterback Carson Miller, who secured his first career touchdown with a 29-yard score early in the 4th.
“I’ve had some opportunities where I get down inside the 5 and I don’t get to finish the mission,” Carson said. “It was just awesome to put one in there.”
The Horsemen wildcat offense was stifled thanks to the efforts of senior captain Jason Gonzalez, Saya, and sophomores Charlie Garnett and Hunter Gillies. The four each had multiple tackles over the course of the shutout victory and helped hold Sleepy Hollow’s offense to a 20 percent third-down conversion rate, only one pass completion, and fewer than 100 total yards.
Coach Garr praised the team’s performance, saying, “We’ll use this game as a barometer for the playoffs and how we prepare for them…Every week we’ve continued to get better and better, and we’re getting healthy.”
The Garnets have gathered momentum from their recent hot streak, and their dominance over Sleepy Hollow largely carried over from their statement 42-14 victory over Ardsley Oct. 13. In that game, seven different receivers caught a pass for the Garnets.
Senior wide receiver Charlie Stevens caught two of A.J. Miller’s three touchdown passes, the offense rushed for a whopping 258 total yards, and three Garnets snagged an interception from Ardsley quarterback Michael Rende, including junior Jake Kessner, sophomore Nigel Strazzini, and junior Archer Fenton.
Fenton’s pick was especially poignant for Garnet players and fans, who’ve rallied around Fenton’s brother Hamish, who was recently diagnosed with cancer. With hundreds of students and fans wearing purple attire (Hamish’s favorite color), and many of Fenton’s teammates writing “Hamish Strong” across their equipment, the interception seemed Hollywood-scripted and kick-started a drive that led to the Garnets sixth touchdown of the night.
“It’s great to see everyone here,” Fenton said immediately after the pick. “Moving here from Australia, I couldn’t have picked a better town to come to.”
Despite a 57-yard touchdown by Ardsley running back Tyler DeCosta in the fourth quarter, Fenton and the Garnet defense managed to keep Ardsley’s offense to under 200 total yards and kept Rende to just 98 yards passing over the course of the game.
While the regular season ended in storybook fashion, with their record now 6-2, the Garnets quickly shifted focus to the first-round playoff matchup, October 27, at home against Nyack. They’re looking to continue their success as they seek their first state championship since 2008.
– Photos by Alison Rodilosso