By Mitch Silver
Can an undefeated team feel foreboding? The Rye Garnets entered their 95th meeting with Harrison on October 8 having won every contest since 2012. The series record in “The Game” stood at 49-42-3 in their favor, and they had won 21 of the previous 22 games. Rye was undefeated at 5-0, while the visitors came in at 4-1, losing a 38-37 heartbreaker to the league’s other undefeated team, Clarkstown South. And yet…
Harrison had yielded the same 71 points on the season as the Garnets, while scoring nearly 50 points more on offense. They had easily handled Brewster and Yorktown, defeating them by a combined 42 points, while Rye required last-minute heroics to emerge victorious in both games. Which of these two neighborhood rivals was Brook-bound?
Before that could be decided, a couple of events took place. First, a helicopter had been circling Nugent Stadium carrying professional skydiver Jeff Provenzano, a 1994 Rye High graduate. He jumped out of the copter and did some figure eights with his parachute before landing on the 35-yard line to a cheering crowd.
Next, Ellen Mello and her son J.D. presented Rye senior Owen Meyers and his Harrison counterpart, Dylan Haynes, with the Christopher Mello Scholarship Award, given to the football player who exemplifies the skills, leadership, and character of the late Chris Mello, who died in the first plane on 9/11.
Finally, Rye junior Shep Griffiths kicked off to Harrison. Starting at their 40, the Huskies took six plays to work the ball into Rye territory. On fourth down, running back Christian Barchella broke free over the middle and scampered all the way to pay-dirt. The point-after was good, and Harrison was up with four minutes gone in the game.
The Garnets started play at their own 39. Methodically, they worked the ball downfield without throwing a pass. After controlling the ball for nearly seven minutes, Rye scored on a short burst from the 1-yard line by senior running back Tommy Richardson. The quarter ended with the score tied 7-7, Rye’s high-water mark on the day.
Harrison mixed up passes and runs on their next possession, lucking out when they recovered their own fumble at the Rye 27. It was fourth down, and Nicholas Reed kicked the ball powerfully through the uprights for a 10-7 lead. The two teams exchanged punts before a Rye fumble at their own 13-yard line led to another Reed field goal. The score at the half was Harrison 13-Rye 7.
“I thought we were still in it,” Rye Head Coach Dino Garr said later. “We’d be getting the ball to start the second half, and if we could just execute better, we’d be all right.”
They didn’t execute better. A huge kickoff by Reed pinned the home team back on their 20. A holding penalty forced them to punt to the Harrison 39. Two plays later, Husky senior Niko Marinelli found room along the right sideline, and galloped 53 yards home to make it 19-7. A bad snap on the point after gave the Rye crowd hope their team could turn it around.
Despite a couple of penalties on the next drive, the Garnets worked the ball on four successful passes to the Huskies’ 13. Then, in the turning point of the game, a Rye penalty nullified a TD, ending the quarter with the same 19-7 score.
The fourth quarter was more of the same. Harrison had the ball in their own territory when a Rye face mask penalty gave them a first down at the Garnet 41. The Huskies’ drive ended in a missed field goal, but precious time had ticked off the clock. On the next series, two sacks by the bigger Harrison line left the Garnets with fourth down and 21. Coach Garr decided to go for it, but yet another sack forced them to turn the ball over at their own 28-yard line. A couple of runs garnered the Huskies a first down and, with 2:12 left in the game, a third Reed field goal sealed Rye’s fate. Final score: 22-7, breaking a decade-long winning streak for the Garnets.
“Unfortunately,” Coach Garr said later, “we did what we’ve been doing all year: missing assignments. I don’t know what coach can keep drawing up plays for 2nd and 20, or 3rd and 20. We’re going to have to play much better against Clarkstown South Friday night.”