Rye Country Day Football
Wildcats Bop the Hop 25-14 for Fourth Straight Win
By Mitch Silver
The Hopkins Grammar football team drove down from New Haven with a 3-1 record Saturday afternoon. The Hilltoppers drove back home that evening with a 3-2 mark, thanks to a second-half comeback by Rye Country Day that erased a 14-6 halftime deficit and gave the home team their fourth win in a row.
After losing their season’s opener 28-6, Head Coach John Calandros’ Wildcats have been on a roll. First, they traveled to New Jersey to take on a tough Pingry School squad. They returned to Rye 13-7 winners. Another road trip, this time across the county, resulted in a 26-7 verdict over archrival Hackley.
Last week, the locals played host to another New Jersey squad, Morristown-Beard, and dropped 35 points on the visitors in the first half of play on their way to a 35-16 victory. Allan Houston III had 180 all-purpose yards and scored twice. Nick Owens threw for three touchdowns, including two to Justin Mandell. Mandell also had three interceptions.
After that humbling opening-day defeat at the hands of St. Luke’s, Coach Calandros must have phoned his injured star, a preseason Elite 11 pick by the Journal News, and told him, “Houston, we have a problem.”
Since then, the Brown-bound senior has recovered brilliantly. Going into the Hopkins game, he led the team with 146 yards receiving, including three touchdowns through the air and another TD on the ground, where he averages 7.5 yards a carry. He’s caught a two-point conversion after a Wildcat score, and even completed the only pass he’s tried for 28 yards.
But Houston isn’t the whole story by any means. Six-foot three, 220-pound junior running back Cullen Coleman has amassed more than 400 yards in total offense, while older brother Cam, one of the captains, has made the most solo tackles on the season. Another captain, senior quarterback Nick Owens, is averaging over 100 yards gained.
Hopkins started Saturday’s contest playing fast, aggressive football. After Rye converted on a short run to make the game 6-0 (the PAT was blocked), the Hilltopper offense put together two consecutive scoring drives, first converting on an Owen Sherman 4-yard run after a couple of third-down completions to take the lead, 7-6. Then junior QB Phil DeLise connected with senior receiver Jordan Shand on a 19-yard wheel route to put Hopkins up 14-6 at half.
In the locker room, Coach Calandros told his team, “That first half is on me. Hopkins is doing some things we didn’t expect.” Then he and his staff spent the rest of halftime changing some of the defensive assignments. The result? The Wildcats scored all 19 second-half points to put the game away.
Near the end, huge co-captain Malcolm Brydson could be heard shouting from the middle of the line after a long Wildcat gain, “Feed me, Seymour!” Not many in the crowd seemed to get the quote from the bloodthirsty plant in “Little Shop of Horrors”. Asked afterwards if he was really out for blood, Brydson stayed in character: “I don’t eat before the game. I eat <during> the game!”
Afterwards, the coaches distributed game balls to Houston, Cam Coleman, and running back/linebacker Alex Kelly. Kelly, in turn, deflected the praise. “I’m giving this ball to the guys on the line. They opened holes big enough, anyone could have run through them.”
The 4-1 Wildcats entertain Brooklyn’s Poly Prep Blue Devils, coming in with a 3-2 record, tomorrow at 3 p.m.
Co-captain Cameron Coleman forces a fair catch.
Senior William McPhail forces a hurried throw,