The 84th edition of The Game was a typical Rye-Harrison affair.
By Mitch Silver
The 84th edition of The Game was a typical Rye-Harrison affair. There were touchdowns, interceptions, unsung heroes, 5,000 people shouting themselves hoarse, a record-setting passer who ran more than he threw, an almost-interception that bounced straight into the hands of a receiver standing in the end zone, one marching band in full regalia and the other in T-shirts with the word “Band” printed on them. And, naturally, once the final whistle called a halt to the mayhem, a bunch of happy, exhausted kids were soaking in the Brook.
The Garnets entered the game 1-0 on the season and owners of 10 wins out of their last 11 games against their Harrison rivals. The opening series, though, suggested Coach Dino Garr’s defense might have its hands full. Husky senior QB Joe Nannariello threw long twice; twice the pass was overthrown to wide-open senior receiver Zac Evans. After that, first-year Harrison head coach Dom Zanot kept the ball on the ground. Nannariello had zero yards in the air at halftime.
Meanwhile, Rye’s Drew Abate was showing them how it’s done. He caught three balls from senior quarterback Andrew Livingston, the last on a fourth-and-five after a Rye timeout, to set up three straight Livingston keepers for the score. Then Abate added the point after to put the Garnets up 7-0.
With Rashan Gilmore and Mike Dragone running the ball, Harrison looked dangerous on the next drive. But then Rye sophomore Tyler Reno broke up one deep pass intended for Mike Salvatori before senior Tim DeGraw went him one better and intercepted a Nannariello attempt at the Garnets’ 25, returning it nearly 20 yards. A Livingston-to-sophomore-Brett Egan completion over the middle eventually led to senior Cartier Johnson’s touchdown run with 33 seconds left in the quarter. Abate provided the PAT to push the score to 14-0.
With Gilmore and Dragone once more finding holes behind enormous tackle Stephen D’Ippolito and his merely huge fellow tackle Christian LoDolce, Harrison moved the ball methodically up the field for 5½ minutes until Gilmore was able to punch it in on a fourth-and-one. With four minutes left in the half, Rye led 14-7.
Rye went right back to work. With sophomore Mat Bruno taking a couple of direct snaps and Livingston running a couple more, it freed up Abate to run a curl pattern and then a slant-in on the next play, putting Rye on the Harrison 38 with 34 seconds on the clock. Livingston’s next pass was his best of the day. After looking right, he threw over the middle to Egan, who was stopped just short of the end zone. On the next play, the Garnets were penalized for an unsnapped chinstrap, pushing them back to the six and Coach Garr to a near meltdown. Livingston finally kicked a 24-yard field goal to make it 17-7 at the half.
The weather report called for rain, and the skies did open up in the third quarter. Maybe it was the slippery ball that caused Livingston’s fumble on his own 22 with two minutes left in the period. Whatever it was, LoDolce recovered and the luck was with Harrison when a Nannariello pass was tipped by Garnets free safety Tim Hale right into the hands of Evans. Junior Drake Turcotte broke through to block the extra point, leaving the margin at 4, 17-13.
Up in the stands, Rye alums from the Class of 1956 recalled another tipped ball that led to a Harrison score. Bill Gundy, the QB of the team that won 33 straight in the ’50s, recalled it was a hard tackle that made the ball pop in the air. Walt Munze, Rich Caputo, Mike Grean, and Bill Hayes all smiled ruefully at the thought. Grean said, “Our guy hit the runner, and their other guy caught it in mid-air and went in untouched. We would have won had it not been for that play.”
Would Evans’ miracle TD work the same Huskies magic 60 years later? Nope. DeGraw would finally catch his first two balls of the game to start the fourth quarter, his second reception taking it all the way to the Harrison 5-yard-line. Cartier Johnson’s second score of the day over the middle and Abate’s extra point put Rye back in the driver’s seat, 24-13.
DeGraw had one more play up his sleeve. With Harrison going for it late on fourth-and-12, he broke up a deep ball intended for Salvatori at the Rye 10. After that, it was just a question of how many times Johnson would have to run into a stacked Huskies defense before the clock ran out.
So an unusual September meeting ended with Rye winning its 39th game of the series.
Asked why he wasn’t targeting his favorite receiver, DeGraw, for most of the game, Livingston replied, “They had a safety over the top on him. So we took what they gave us.” For his part, DeGraw was perfectly happy with the role he played. “Give Drew Abate all the credit. He earned it.”
When last seen, 40 Garnet football players, the cheerleaders, and most of Rye’s elementary school population were sloshing happily in the water next to the field. At the least the Brook isn’t frozen this time of year.
The following Saturday, the Garnets overcame a sleepy first half to beat Sleepy Hollow (2-1) with two third-quarter aerial TDs from Livingston to DeGraw. The first one found the senior receiver for 54 yards and the second went for a whopping 72. Coupled with more forceful tackling — a Chase Pratt hit leveled the Headless Horsemen’s QB, Joey Good — Rye’s D threw a second-half shutout for a 38-21 win.
— Photos by Melanie Cane and John Wood