RYE - After Tom Hanney's 84-yard quarterback draw and the ensuing extra point by Shawn Levy, Rye found itself down for the first time this season. It didn't last long.
The Garnets regrouped, scoring three touchdowns in a six-minute span late in the second quarter and pulling away for a 40-13 Class B sectional semifinal win over Nanuet yesterday.
"That was the first time we were down, and we hate that, so we really got together after they scored," Rye's Donald Keough said.
Just like in the first meeting, a 35-12 Rye win on Sept. 12, the Golden Knights (6-3) packed the box and made the Garnets (9-0) beat them through the air. Quarterback Connor Eck was up to the challenge - completing 13 of 18 passes for 248 yards and three touchdowns. Keough caught seven passes for 136 yards, and T.J. Storino caught touchdown passes of 48 and 16 yards in the second quarter.
"I knew the whole week it was going to be a tough game and I was going to have to step up and throw the ball, and that's what I did today," Eck said.
"They're making a commitment to stopping the run, and with that hopefully comes a price," Garnets coach Dino Garr said.
Eck's biggest throw came midway through the second quarter. With Nanuet up 7-6 and Rye facing fourth-and-nine, Eck found Storino behind the defense for a 48-yard touchdown pass. Sean Carter broke up the 2-point conversion pass to keep the score at 12-7, but a disastrous sequence for No. 3A Nanuet before the half gave No. 1A Rye some breathing room.
First, Jack O'Callaghan returned a punt 50 yards for a touchdown with 1:51 left. Nanuet fumbled two plays later, and Eck found Storino again for a 16-yard touchdown with 38 seconds left.
"We had about a three-minute period where we had just a complete mental meltdown," Nanuet coach Rich Conklin said. "That tiny span really redirected the course of the entire game. We had some kids who played very, very well, but at that point, the horse was out of the barn."
Carter actually recovered a Rye fumble on the second-half kickoff, but the second sack for Kyle Ramalho - and the fifth overall for the Garnets - ended that threat. And Rye proceeded to drive 99 yards on its next possession, capped by the 51-yard touchdown pass from Eck to Keough.
"Give credit to Nanuet; they came hard and they played hard. But our players showed their mettle by coming back," Garr said.
Cole McCormack had 77 yards on six carries, and Ramalho had two short touchdown runs for Rye, while Rob Leonard had three catches for 85 yards and a touchdown in the second half for Nanuet.
Rye will face No. 1B Pleasantville (8-1) Friday night at Mahopac in the final. The Garnets defeated the Panthers 20-7 in the first week of the season.
"It's going to be tough. It was tough playing Nanuet a second time," Garr said. "We know it's going to be a real battle."