ARDSLEY - No matter where your allegiance stood, you knew the Ardsley High School scoreboard that read "Visitor: 35, Home: 6" told crooked truths.
The home team undoubtedly played better than its six points indicated. And the visitor, mighty Rye, admitted its 35-6 win in the regular-season finale was deceiving in nature.
"I'm happy we won," senior Donald Keough said. "But it certainly wasn't a great game for us."
Rye enters next weekend's playoffs with a 54-game winning streak vs. Section 1 teams.
The Garnets (7-0), the top-ranked team in The Journal News Class B poll, started with a flourish, taking command and asserting their control behind two rushing touchdowns from Kyle Ramalho. The senior fullback punched in scores of 2 and 3 yards to give Rye a 14-0 lead.
On the heels of two possessions without a first down, Ardsley took over with four minutes left in the first quarter and proceeded to outgain Rye 139 yards to 128 for the rest of the half.
The Panthers (3-4) drove deep into Rye territory twice, but failed to score both times. In the second quarter they had a third-and-14 at the Garnets 17 when Simon Taub was intercepted at the goal line by John Santoro on an option pass.
Still, the Garnets' defense didn't quite solve its struggles until the third quarter. Ardsley again bullied its way downfield, beginning with a 65-yard run by Dan Manley, who finished with 144 yards rushing on just 11 carries. The senior running back was finally tackled at the 12. Quarterback Skylar Griffenberg scored on a 1-yard sneak three plays later, cutting Rye's lead to 14-6.
All of a sudden, the Garnets realized what their hoarse coaches preached: perhaps they took the Panthers (3-4) too lightly.
"Knowing we were undefeated and being comfortable that we were in the playoffs, I think maybe we took this week too easy," Keough said.
Faced with a game in the second half, Rye struck back. On the second play of its ensuing drive, Connor Eck feathered a pass down the middle of the field to Keough for a 59-yard completion. He later took a keeper 5 yards for a touchdown, giving the Garnets a 21-6 lead.
Rye added to that total in the fourth quarter. Keough intercepted Griffenberg and returned it 45 yards for a touchdown and T.J. Storino scored on a 13-yard run.
The late scores allowed the Garnets to rest nicked-up regulars like Ramalho (17 carries, 99 yards) and two-way starter Rob Santangelo in anticipation of Friday night's Class B quarterfinal against visiting Kennedy.
"I'll be fine. I'm going to play," said Ramalho, who cracked his ankle in the final regular-season game last year but suffered only a bruise yesterday.
Despite the loss, Ardsley qualified for the postseason for the second time in three years under Colin Maier.
"I'm never happy with a loss, but I liked the way we fought," Maier said.
The Panthers visit Pleasantville on Friday night in the quarters.
"Our program is getting better," Maier said. "Sometime in the future, this score is going to change. We're working at it."