Down at Halftime, Rye Comes Back Against Pelham to Stay Unbeaten
By Mitch Silver
The Pelham High School Football team that entered Nugent Stadium the night of October 22 was undefeated. The home team they were due to face, the Rye Garnets, were also unbeaten on the season. Something had to give. Eventually, it was Pelham.
But that’s not the way it looked at halftime.
The Garnets got on the board first on Senior Night. After each side ran two series to no avail, Rye took over at their own 21. Caden Whaling, back after being out for two games with a sprained foot, ran for a first down. Quarterback Owen Kovacs gained 16 yards on a keeper, but a penalty brought the ball back to their own 32. A completed pass was nullified by another penalty, putting the ball at Rye’s own 13 yard-line. Then Kovacs found Mason McComb racing down the right sideline, and the senior wide receiver went all the way for the score. Tommaso Grani’s point-after was good, and Rye led 7-0.
The second quarter saw the Pelicans come charging back. Starting at their own 19, a counter play picked up 20 yards. After three more runs and another first down, a pass interference call gave Pelham the ball at Rye’s 33. A penalty for too many men on the field helped move the ball to Rye’s 21. A completed pass on 4th down and nine gave the visitors the ball with goal to go, and Daniel Fredbeck ran it in for the touchdown. But the point-after kick was wide left, and Rye held a 7-6 lead.
The Garnets had to punt on their next series. Pelham completed a halfback option pass to the Garnets’ 37. After a run play lost a yard, the next one by Josiah Campbell went over right tackle all the way for a second TD. This time the point-after kick was good.
Rye had one more chance to score before halftime. Taking the kickoff at their own 25- yard line, the Garnets completed a pass to the 39. Then Rye ran their own halfback option, on which there were two penalties. Rye accepted the roughing the passer call, bringing the ball to the Pelicans’ 45. After runs by Whaling and Kovacs went nowhere, an end-around by junior Cole Bartlett gained a first down at the 26.
Three more plays took the ball to Pelham’s 9 with fewer than 30 seconds in the half. But three straight passes in the end zone were incomplete, and the visitors went into the locker room up by six.
Head Coach Dino Garr described the situation at the half. “We were not tackling as well as we should have, thanks to some poor defensive techniques. I urged the team to do it the way they were taught. And they did.”
The second half saw the Garnets’ defense take over the game. They would allow the Pelicans just ten yards gained in the final 30 minutes.
The kickoff saw a freshly animated Rye team surge down the field. Starting at their own 30, Whaling ran it twice for a first down. Three plays later, Kovacs connected again with Bartlett to take it to Pelham’s 42. A couple of plays followed by a motion penalty brought it back to the 44. Then Kovacs ran for eight, and a pass to senior Ryan Surhoff took the Garnets to Pelham’s 9. Three runs took the ball into the end zone. When Grani’s kick was good, Rye was up 14-13.
The turning point of the game came two plays later, when Rye recovered a quarterback fumble at the Pelham 19. Four plays later, the home team scored again to go up 21-13.
Eventually, Grani’s first field goal of the season pushed Rye up 24-13, which proved to be the final score, giving them the league title with an 8-0 record heading into the playoffs.
For the game, McComb had four catches for 100 yards and a touchdown from Kovacs, who threw for 158 yards and ran for 53 and a score.
The Garnets will host John Jay-Cross River, the fourth-seeded team in the North division, in the first game of the Class A playoffs Friday night, October 29.