By Mitch Silver
For the twenty-first time in twenty-two games, the Rye High Varsity Football team took a well-earned dip in the Blind Brook after playing the Harrison Huskies. By winning the 94th continuation of Westchester’s most famous rivalry, the Garnets earned their time in the water. But it wasn’t as easy as the final score made it seem.
After a ceremony in which Doug Mello honored the Chris Mello $5,000 Scholarship Award winners — A.J. Troilo for Harrison and Jack Garnett and Caden Whaling for Rye — the homestanding Huskies received the opening kickoff and marched down the field. Three quick first downs were followed by a pass into the end zone by quarterback Nick Garcia that was broken up, but interference was called on the play. On fourth and goal, Troilo went in for a touchdown. The point-after by kicker Nick Reed was good.
Rye came right back. Starting after a touchback on the kickoff, senior QB Owen Kovacs hit classmate Ryan Surhoff for a first down at their own 35. Whaling took two shots to earn another 1st down before gaining 20 yards over right tackle. Three plays later, the Garnets were in for the tying touchdown.
Tommaso Grani squibbed the kickoff to the Harrison 38. An unsportsmanlike penalty brought the ball into Rye territory. Troilo ran the ball twice for eight yards around a false start penalty before a Garcia keeper got a 1st down. Troilo was stopped by senior Alex Tepedino for a loss of one and a pass was broken up before Nick Reed used his big leg to kick a field goal from the 46th yard-line. The time was 8:56 of the second period, the last time Harrison would score.
Head Coach Dino Garr thought his team figured out what the Huskies were doing right about then. “Jay Ciraco, the Harrison coach, plays a triple option offense. I think our guys figured out they needed to stay in their lanes. We started closing them down then.”
The Garnets took the following kickoff at their own 21. A pass to Whaling went for five before he gained a first down at the Rye 41. A couple more runs by Whaling and Kovacs brought the ball to the Harrison 32. Then a halfback option to senior Carter Barter in the end zone caught the Huskies off guard and made the score Rye 14, Harrison 10.
The runner who took the kickoff was pulled down at his own 10-yard line. It was still third and long when Troilo broke free for a 40-yard run up the middle. The Huskies, though, were forced to punt. Backed up at his own 23 by a delay of game penalty, Kovacs dropped back for Rye and kept the ball, sprinting along the left sideline 77 yards for a touchdown with :41 left in the half. A high snap on the point-after forced the holder to run the ball in for two points. That’s the way the half ended, 22-10.
Harrison star and longtime college coach Ralph Friedgen was honored as Mr. Husky at halftime. It was his first game back at the school since 1965.
The second half was more of the same. With Whaling gaining a lot of his 175 yards on 20 carries for the day, Rye went into the end zone but was called back for a holding penalty. Three plays later, a Kovacs throw was intercepted by Harrison’s Chris McLaughlin. The Huskies had to punt it back, however, with Reed’s boomer covered by Rye at their own 7-yard line.
A big Whaling run to the Harrison 25 led to Kovacs going in for a TD that was again called back for holding. The third period ended with the Garnets threatening once more. Two more Whaling runs produced another touchdown early in the fourth quarter, making the score 29-10.
A pair of 1st downs took Harrison into Rye territory. Then a couple of equally great stops by Ryan Surhoff in the Huskies’ backfield led to a desperation run and fumble that was picked by Rye sophomore Charlie Saurack, who took the ball 68 yards for the Garnets’ final score.
The win was Rye’s 49th in the series. Except for 2012, Harrison hasn’t won The Game since 2003. The Huskies, which are now 3-1, saw Troilo run for 106 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries. Rye (5-0) saw QB Kovacs run for 128 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries. He also completed five of six passes for 117 yards and a touchdown.
Both teams return to action on Friday, October 8. Rye returns home and will host Eastchester at 7 p.m. Harrison will host Pelham, also for a 7 p.m. game.