By Mitch Silver
The Rye Garnets had a lot to play for when they met Yorktown last Friday night. First, the Class A semifinal would see the winner move on to play the defending champions from Somers High for all the Westchester/Rockland marbles. Second, it was a chance for Dino Garr’s team to avenge the 66-42 thumping the Huskers administered in 2016 in this same semifinal game. Third (as if they needed a third piece of motivation), Yorktown defeated Rye back in September by a score of 34-30 in a game the Garnets led 21-7 at halftime.
Seemingly all that stood between the Garnets and a title shot was Brett Makar, Yorktown’s Super 11 back. As it turned out, Makar was all the Huskers needed. He ran for 189 yards on the evening and scored a touchdown. He sacked Rye QB Declan Lavelle when the Garnets were mounting a comeback. And he intercepted a pass when it was do or die.
Here’s how it all went down. With both teams determined not to engage in another shootout, the teams left Charlie Murphy Field at halftime with the Huskers up 9-0. Lavelle, Rye’s phenomenal sophomore quarterback, hadn’t completed a pass. And yet the Garnets were upbeat.
“In the locker room, we talked about finishing,” Garr said after the game. “We didn’t make a couple of plays that we should have, so we talked about winning the battle on every snap.”
The change after the break was electric, as Rye scored twice to take the lead. Lavelle would throw for over 200 yards in the second half of play, and he scored on a 1-yard plunge. Then, 25 seconds into the final period, workhorse running back Billy Chabot gave Rye a 13-9 lead.
On the next series, the Huskers’ Tommy Weaver scored on a QB keeper to put his team back on top. Then a crucial sack by Makar turned possession over and led to what proved to be the winning score. Facing a third down at the Rye 40, Weaver lofted a throw that just eluded a Garnet interception by inches. Instead, it nestled in the arms of Alex Ujkaj, the same guy who caught the winning pass with under a minute to go in the teams’ earlier meeting.
Rye wasn’t finished. Lavelle led the Garnet and Black in their hurry-up offense, connecting on an aerial to Dylan Concavage with 1:18 left, a score that trimmed the deficit to 23-19. Rye tried an onside kick that the Huskers recovered. But Makar, of all people, fumbled the ball away in that final minute. The Garnets made it across midfield, but Yorktown’s all-everything player atoned for his boo-boo with a spectacular pick of Lavelle's Hail Mary.
After the game, Coach Garr was his usual upbeat self. “There are winners and losers on the scoreboard, but not in our locker room. To me, they’re all winners.” He was at pains to praise the offensive line: center A. J. Thompson and linemates Owen Hull, Tyler Webb, Stewart Moore, Jack Uiliano, and the other players who opened the holes and protected Lavelle. “You don’t go anywhere without a terrific line. They did everything I asked of them.”
So did the whole team.
(pic# 1517) The band of brothers comes together before the kickoff.
(pic# 1645) Gavin Kenney hauls in another pass from Declan Lavelle.