Garnets Beat Harrison in “The Game”, Then Go for a Swim
By Mitch Silver
Eighteen months after they last played The Game, Rye High hosted Harrison at Nugent Stadium Saturday afternoon for the right to take the winners’ plunge in the Brook. After a fierce struggle, mostly fought on the ground, the Garnets emerged with the win, 21-13.
Head Coach Dino Garr’s unbeaten team overcame a bumpy start. After a Harrison infraction on an onside kick to open the game gave the ball to Rye at the Huskies’ 49-yard line, junior QB Owen Kovacs was intercepted. Two plays later, the Garnets’ Aidan Cunningham recovered a fumble at the Harrison 27. Caden Whaling, sidestepping for 17 of his 165 yards on the day, made it first down at the 10. On the next play, Liam Lavelle freed himself in the right side of the end zone for a Rye touchdown. Tommaso Grani’s PAT was good for a 7-0 lead with just 2:31 gone.
The Huskies fumbled twice more on their next drive, recovering the ball both times. On third and 11, senior Alex Vollbrecht broke up a pass attempt by Harrison senior QB Troy Straus, forcing a punt.
In all, Harrison fumbled the ball five times, losing three of them, though Coach Garr didn’t see the miscues as gifts. “We forced those fumbles by playing hard-hitting defense. We earned them.”
The first quarter ended with Rye driving. First, junior QB Teddy Berkery kept the ball for a first down at his 40, then Lavelle took a flare pass for four yards and Whaling, the leading rusher in Section 1, got a first down at the Harrison 39.
The second period started with Whaling rushing four times to bring the ball to the visitors’ 8. Then he took a direct snap in the Garnets’ newly installed Wildcat formation and found the end zone over left tackle. Grani’s point-after was good again.
Harrison put together a drive on their next possession behind the running of the Section’s second leading rusher, junior Casey Judelson. But with a first down at Rye’s 15, the Huskies’ second lost fumble ended their chances of scoring again in the half. The buzzer sounded with Rye up 14-0.
The third quarter was much like the first two. Harrison was crossing midfield after taking the kickoff, but yet another fumble gave the ball back to the Garnets. Because blocking back Alex Tepedino was out with an injury, he picked up in the Eastchester game, Rye’s attack featured direct snaps to Whaling — who ran for a whopping 31 times in the game — and keepers by the quarterbacks. Whaling broke several tackles to gain a first down across midfield, but Berkery had his pass picked off at the Huskies’ 19-yard line.
After a series of runs brought the ball out to their own 36, a long pass from Straus connected along the right sideline at Rye’s 25. A few plays later, Whaling, playing strong safety, broke up a pass in the end zone. But Judelson fumbled forward down to the 3-yard line, and took the ball in on the next play. Rye 14, Harrison 7.
On the next series, Whaling would eventually run the ball down to Harrison’s 29, but a Garnet penalty brought the ball back to the 43 as the quarter expired. Whaling would pick up two more first downs on the ground before a late hit on him gave Rye a first and 10 at the Huskies’ 13. Three runs and Whaling was in for his second TD. Grani’s PAT was good, giving the home side a 21-7 lead and seemingly putting the game away with 9:29 left on the scoreboard.
But Harrison had one last gasp. A long pass to senior Wyatt Keller that connected over Lavelle’s head gave them the ball on Rye’s 29. Jack O’Byrne stopped a run for no gain, then Lavelle broke up a third-down pass in the end zone. On fourth down, Harrison executed a reverse, sending Keller tearing around left end and down to the 13-yard line before Lavelle could stop him. The refs took a measurement, which showed the Huskies were stopped half a yard short.
Rye took over, but Alex Vollbrecht was forced to punt, giving Harrison the ball at their own 36. After a march to Rye’s 15, a Strauss pass found senior Anthony Palatucci to make it 21-13. But the point-after was blocked by all-purpose man Vollbrecht.
The Huskies would try an onside kick with 78 seconds left in the game. But when Rye recovered, that was all she wrote. Rye jumped into the Brook with a 48-42-3 all-time series lead.
The Garnets, who are now 5-0, will travel to the winner of the game between Spring Valley and Nyack on Sunday, April 25 for a bowl game.