RYE HIGH FOOTBALL:
After Raining on Lourdes’ Parade, Unbeaten Garnets Tackle Harrison
By Mitch Silver
The 85th edition of The Game — the Rye/Harrison football classic — is set to kick off at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Harrison’s Feeley Field, and the teams will take the gridiron with vastly different expectations.
Rye is 5-0, with the scalps of last year’s Class A Sectional finalists and semi-finalists along with the 2014 Class B champions, Our Lady of Lourdes, hanging from their belts.
Harrison’s 3-2 record includes two overtime nail biters (one won and one lost). Last week’s enormous 48-7 victory, while impressive, came at the expense of winless Pelham. Though the Garnets have won 12 of the 15 games played in the 2000s, the Huskies continue to lead the all-time series by 42-39 with three ties.
One more thought on the two teams’ records. Rye was ranked first this preseason among all 19 Class A teams by the athletic directors before the schedules were drawn up. Harrison was 15th. The strength-of-schedule system, designed to prevent overmatched blowouts, therefore paired Rye with the strongest teams in the Section while Harrison was given the weakest.
On the other hand, the Huskies will be at full strength tomorrow, while Rye is banged up, thanks to the pounding they took from Poughkeepsie’s Lourdes a week ago. Co-captain Patrick Hull went down with a knee sprain, fellow captain and senior running back Chase Pratt took his lumps, and the entire squad seemed to limp — rather than run — off the field after the final gun signaled a 13-7 win for the Garnets.
Still, a win is a win, and this one was well earned. In the cold and driving rain, Pratt took an early handoff and rumbled in for the score. But with a minute to go in the half, Warriors’ senior quarterback Dean Rotger launched a 40-yard heave that found 6’5” senior Luke Timm in the end zone. That pretty much was the be-all and end-all of OLL’s offensive game, as Rye’s defense tightened up and the weather did the rest.
Lourdes coach Brian Walsh spoke after the game. “We couldn’t run the ball real well. Our line has a lot of inexperienced guys and they have a great defensive line, plus it poured all game,” Walsh said. “I couldn’t run half the stuff we had planned.”
Rye blocked a punt, which is becoming a Garnet trademark, and forced another to travel just nine yards. Rye Coach Dino Garr praised his special teams and the staff that helps coach them. “Simon Berk, Jim Rinaldi, Joe King…these are the guys who really get it done.”
Still, for all the positive things on defense, it took QB T.J. Lavelle bouncing a run to the outside and making his way along the right sideline 33 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter before Rye could break the 7-7 tie. The snap on the PAT try flew through wet fingers, but it didn’t matter. The Garnet and Black controlled the ball for nearly nine minutes in the fourth quarter to close out the game.
As for Harrison, Coach Garr — who last year finally evened his record against the Huskies at 17-all — is taking nothing for granted. “I’ve seen the game films,” he said. “They’re a typical Harrison team…physical…aggressive…and they’re playing for their playoff lives. They’ll be extra tough.”
As important as the game is for the players and the student bodies, it might be even bigger for the alums. In its long and storied history, Rye has put up two 33-game winning streaks against all comers. Both times, in 1955 and again in 1960, the team that ended those streaks was Harrison. This year is the 60th anniversary of The Battle of the Century, held on Thanksgiving Day 1955, after two postponements due to weather.
The two unbeatens faced off in front of a record 15,000 fans here in Rye in a thriller that ended in a 13-12 Harrison victory. To commemorate the occasion, the Rye/Harrison Tradition Committee, jointly “captained” by John Stubenvoll and Steve Feeney, will welcome the players from both ’55 teams to midfield for the opening coin toss.
Who will bathe in the brook in for the 85th time? We’ll all find out tomorrow afternoon.
—Photos by John Wood