The Pressure, Perils, And Passion of Playing Quarterback Against Harrison

And you thought Connor Eck was wet behind the ears as a sophomore quarterback during the 2008 Rye-Harrison game? When the Garnet offense takes the field October 15, Andrew Livingston – a freshman – will be starting under center.

Published October 11, 2011 3:57 PM
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s-QBthumbAnd you thought Connor Eck was wet behind the ears as a sophomore quarterback during the 2008 Rye-Harrison game? When the Garnet offense takes the field October 15, Andrew Livingston – a freshman – will be starting under center.

 

By Jim Byrne

 

And you thought Connor Eck was wet behind the ears as a sophomore quarterback during the 2008 Rye-Harrison game? When the Garnet offense takes the field October 15, Andrew Livingston – a freshman – will be starting under center.

 

s-QBalLivingston is the first freshman to ever play quarterback for Rye in “The Game”, and the 14-year-old wasn’t even born during the Garnets’ 1996 victory, their sole win of that decade.

 

Livingston – a natural athlete and one cool customer – is well equipped for the job. He led Rye to their first victory of the season against Horace Greeley October 1. He’s also gained a few fans along the way, including one former Rye quarterback whose advice is for the freshman phenom to ignore the hype.

 

“I’ve seen Andrew play and I’m amazed at his poise and leadership on the field – especially for a freshman,” said Myles Lavelle, who was QB for Rye during their undefeated 1985 season, which included a 7-0 win against Harrison in the snow. “He has all the tools – he’s got smarts, athletic ability, and a certain calmness you rarely see in a young kid. Some just have a knack for the position and I think Andrew has it.”

 

When asked to share his experience under center during “The Game”, Lavelle was more than happy to oblige.

 

s-QBml“It was Dino Garr’s first year back after a six-year stint at Westlake; rumor had it Dino was fired by then-athletic director John Nugent because he couldn’t beat Harrison during his first go-round,” said Lavelle. “Dino was as intense as I had ever seen him that week.”

 

The quarterback was amped up during the first series, so much so that he could hardly get the plays out of his mouth during the huddle. Rye had worked on the opening play all week – a sweep and swap where Lavelle took the snap, pitched it to tailback Jimmy Stavrides, who then tossed it back to the quarterback. The design called for Lavelle to heave it 35 yards to a wide-open Mark Surhoff, but the QB instead threw a wobbly duck that went 15 yards and was picked off.

 

“Dino’s nerves disappeared the moment I threw that interception, replaced by a rather angry and loud diatribe about me not executing,” said Lavelle. “I told him I was just trying to break the ice, trying to get him to relax a bit. He never did have a great sense of humor during games, but he was all smiles when we won.”

 

Rye won 7-0, thanks to a nifty play-action call on 3rd and goal from the Harrison nine that took some convincing from Lavelle and assistant coach Tommy Maloney. Garr wanted to run the ball, but the play worked out as Lavelle hit Vance Cassell in the endzone for the decisive score.
Franny Archibald, Rye’s behemoth quarterback from the 2006 season, also had advice for the young quarterback.

 

“Know that people are watching and do care about how you carry yourself,” said Archibald. “I was in Kelly’s watching the Rye-Somers game on MSG with a bunch of old-timers and we all are still concerned about how the team does. Don’t quit because people do judge you for how you play and carry yourself on the field, but most importantly if you win the game.”

 

s-QBfaArchibald knows something about never giving up. His Rye team was down 12-0 to Harrison before rallying to win 19-18. Because both teams were ranked No. 1 in the State in their respective classes, the crowd was enormous at Nugent Stadium, with an estimated 10,000 in attendance. That made victory even sweeter that day.

 

“As the clock hit zero I ran up to Dino and threw him in the air and then celebrated with my teammates,” said Archibald. “There was no better feeling in the world at that time and it’s still one of the best memories of my life. The curse of the Bambino might have been broken in 2004, but our team will be screaming ‘19-18’ for the rest of our lives – especially my teammate Pete Longo.”

 

After Archibald graduated, the Eck dynasty began in earnest. Jordan Eck led the team to a State championship in 2007, and then Connor spurred the Garnets to a repeat in 2008. Perhaps more importantly, they combined for a 4-0 record against Harrison.

 

Asked what was running through his head on game day, Jordan said, “It was kind of an unreal-type feeling. I went my whole life hearing and talking about playing in it, and now that I was actually going to be starting? It was pretty nerve-racking.”

 

Jordan Eck and the Garnets won easily, 27-7, and then Connor won another pair of one-sided affairs – 28-3 and 21-7 – before 2010’s epic, come-from-behind 21-20 victory.

 

“In the last minutes, when Harrison scored a touchdown that seemed to put the game away, I thought we were going to lose,” said Connor. “For that second standing on the sideline I thought of all the people I would be letting down and how bad I would feel about myself after the game. But that was only for a second. I realized I’m not ******* losing this game.”

 

s-QBceConnor added, “I can’t wipe the smile off my face that I have now thinking about it. Beating Harrison 21-20 in the best Rye-Harrison game ever played is my greatest and most cherished achievement as an athlete. I could talk endlessly about how gratifying that win was for me and for the rest of the team. To sum it up in only a few words is impossible.”

 

While Jordan urged Livingston not to put too much pressure on himself, Connor said the key to defeating Harrison was leadership. Both may be a tall order for the youngster, who is still a few years away from obtaining a driver’s permit. But, if he can steer the Garnets to a victory, he’ll be able to look back and smile, too.

 

— Photos by John Wood, RyeSportsPhotos.com, and Bill Gordon

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