The Yorktown Cornhuskers led their Class A semifinal playoff game for 46 minutes.
By Mitch Silver
The Yorktown Cornhuskers led their Class A semifinal playoff game for 46 minutes. The Rye Garnets were in front for exactly two. But they were the last two, and they proved to be the most important two minutes of the Garnets’ season as they came from two touchdowns back to beat the Huskers last Friday night at Nugent Stadium, 15-14.
Seven weeks ago, the two teams played another gut-wrenching game, with the Garnets overcoming a 20-10 fourth-quarter deficit to win by 31-20. On the second play of that game, Yorktown’s Jose Boyer intercepted a pass and took it in for a score.
In this one, the game’s second play was again a dagger to the heart as the Huskers’ star running back Nick Santavicca burst through Rye’s line and wasn’t touched all 64 yards to the end zone. He would rush for a whopping 187 yards on the night.
Midway through the period, the Garnets came up short on a fourth and four at their own 36. A few plays later, Santavicca had his second score of the night on a one-yard plunge.
The Garnets finally got untracked in the second quarter. Tim Hale began the revival by intercepting Boyer and halting another Husker threat. Eight minutes later, junior Brett Egan made a glorious catch on a 31-yard pass to get his team to midfield. On the next play, quarterback TJ Lavelle found cousin Aidan Lavelle at the Yorktown 40, with a facemask penalty tacking on another 15 yards.
Then it was throwback time, literally. And laterally. In an old-school hook-and-ladder play, TJ hit Aidan a second time. This time the receiver cleverly flipped a lateral to Egan, running just behind him. The play set up the Garnets’ first score of the game, a TJ keeper with 30 seconds left in the half. But Santi Mascolo’s PAT flew wide right for a 14-6 halftime score.
Rye’s defense rose up in the third quarter, even as the offense continued to sputter. Early on, Mascolo dropped back to punt from his own 35 and boomed one 61 yards to pin the Cornhuskers back on their own 4-yard line. But a combination of Santavicca runs and Boyer quarterback keepers soon had the visitors knocking on Rye’s door. That’s when Mascolo and junior Mat Bruno came up with big stops to turn the ball back over to the home side.
In the fourth quarter, things really got interesting. Bruno, in at quarterback, would take the snap and literally walk up to the line, waiting for the big guys up front to open a hole. He made a first down at Yorktown’s 36, then ran to the 29 and the 26. After a counter play to Chase Pratt gained three, Bruno broke through the tiring Husker line for 23 yards and Rye’s second touchdown with nine minutes left on the clock. But that missed first-half point-after meant Rye had to go for two. The run failed, leaving them still down by 14-12.
Two minutes later, a weak Husker punt set up the Garnets at their own 45. But Yorktown held, leaving Rye with fourth down and Bruno having to heave one and pray. His prayer was answered when the Huskers were called for pass interference at the four-yard line. Unlike the pros, the ball isn’t placed at the spot of the foul. Instead, Rye was given possession at Yorktown’s 20.
Three plays later, the ball was still on the 20 when Santi Mascolo was sent out for the field goal try. The powerful lineman and kicker slammed into the nearly frozen pigskin and sent it through the night air. Three thousand fans watched the ball cleave the uprights for Rye’s first and only lead of the game. A minute later, Chase Pratt intercepted Boyer to nail down the win.
After the game, Coach Dino Garr delivered a few heartfelt words to his exhausted troops. “I told them how proud the coaching staff and I were of their effort. It’s extremely difficult to beat anyone as excellent as this team is even once. To do it twice, you have to rise to the challenge as a team. And we did.”
If Yorktown was a challenge, Our Lady of Lourdes — Rye’s opponent tomorrow in the final at Arlington High School in LaGrangeville — will be a mountain to climb. The 7-2 Warriors, defending Class B champs, advanced to their fourth straight sectional final, their first since moving to Class A, by defeating unbeaten Eastchester, 27-19.
Lourdes and Rye also played earlier in the season, with Rye prevailing 13-7 at home in a driving rain. There’s good news for the Garnets: senior co-captain Patrick Hull, injured in that Lourdes game, is back to anchor Rye’s line. Coach Garr praised him, saying, “Pat is a leader in every way possible. The players look to him, as does the coaching staff.”
Kickoff tomorrow is at 4 p.m.