Rye High Football

By Mitch Silver

Harrison: 42 wins.

Rye: 42 wins.

When the two rival football teams ran onto the turf at McGillicuddy Field last Sunday afternoon in Harrison for the 88th renewal of The Game, their series dating back to 1929 was even-steven (thanks to three ties along the way). But before the clash there was togetherness, as Harrison’s Austin Evans and Rye’s Billy Chabot were each given awards for leadership and sportsmanship in memory of Rye’s Chris Mello, who died on 9/11.

Then the struggle began. The Huskies were out to break Rye’s recent stranglehold on the affair the Garnets having won 14 of the last 15 games. Rye looked to nose ahead of the all-time tally of wins and losses for the first time since 1966. Something had to give.

At first, it looked like Harrison’s day. The home team recovered their own opening kickoff, an onside surprise, at midfield. Two minutes later they were in Rye’s end zone as senior running back Evans took a direct snap on fourth-and-short and rumbled in from the 4-yard line.

Rye appeared stunned and played like it. When Garnet senior Gavin Kenny grabbed a punt that seemed destined for the end zone later in the quarter and was nailed on his own 4, things looked especially grim. But Kenny redeemed himself three plays later when, wide open, he caught a perfect spiral from sophomore quarterback Declan Lavelle and danced in for the 96-yard tying score.

Rye would have a chance to go ahead when senior co-captain Chabot had the pigskin in his hands at Harrison’s 1-yard line. But a stripped ball and a Husky recovery in the end zone denied the visitors the opportunity.

Were the Garnets snake-bit? It certainly seemed a possibility at halftime with the scoreboard stuck on 7-7. But the 2017 edition is nothing if not a second-half team. Earlier this season they pulverized both Byram Hills and Eastchester with bushels of touchdowns after the break. Even their losses to defending State champ Somers and powerhouse Yorktown saw the boys in garnet and black storm back after falling behind early. And, for Harrison, Sunday was no different.

With 3:40 left in the third quarter, Lavelle connected with senior Peter Chabot, who seemed to have been stopped for a nice gain. But then he wrenched himself free of the tackle and went the rest of the 59 yards. Rye 14, Harrison 7.

Exactly four plays later, Kenny forced a fumble with a bone-jarring hit in front of Harrison’s stands that was recovered by sophomore teammate Brendan Lavelle. Billy Chabot blew through the Huskies on the very next play for a 55-yard TD.

Mello winner Chabot would score again early in the fourth quarter after 45-yard pass to senior Kyle Doran set up his 1-yard plunge. Senior Grant Myerson, who was all over the field running the ball and making tackles, sacked Harrison quarterback Frank Nannariello. Then classmate Dylan Concavage recovered a fumble before taking a 15-yard TD toss from Lavelle, capping a 5:18 blitz that turned a tie game into a rout. The victory sent Rye ahead in the all-time series and into the Blind Brook after the game.

Was it just a case of too many Chabots and Lavelles? Rye Head Coach Dino Garr had praise for everyone afterwards. “Seniors Chase Bekkerus and Owen Hull, junior Lachlan Nelson and the rest of the guys up front were finally too much on both sides of the ball. Harrison’s a well-coached team and played a really physical game. They decided to take away our running by putting an extra man in the box. Even so, maybe we had too much for them.”

Declan Lavelle and the offense gained a whopping 537 yards on the afternoon, with the quarterback’s 23-for-32 passing racking up 377 yards in the air. Garr was asked about him.

“Declan’s a pleasure to watch. Even the mistakes he makes, they seem to slide right off him. He’s got Teflon for skin.”

With The Game in their rear-view mirror, the Garnets will have to regroup after a short week when they host Yonkers’ Lincoln High tonight at 7 p.m. Then it’s on to the playoffs.

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