The final stop on my journey to all 10 practices of teams playing for Section 1 championships this weekend.
I’m a failure. Well, kind of.
The glory of rush hour traffic and unconscionable level of traffic on I-287 threw a 20-minute wrinkle in my plan of getting from Westlake to Rye. Despite slick roads, I got Rye safe and sound… just in time to see the players retreating to the locker room.
I could have lied and said I sat in my car and watched them go through special teams work to end practice. But I’d come too far. It’s proven: I am human.
I actually didn’t get time to speak to coach Dino Garr, who had to rush out to a meeting, which is why practice ended at 5:30 tonight. It seemed like a quick session for the Garnets on the night before the Section 1 championship. But then I realized: Hey, it’s Rye.
The Garnets don’t commit the infraction most teams do this time of year: over-practice. I think some coaches get so caught up in game-planning for every single aspect, and carefully take the time to protect against the unexpected, that they burn their kids out by working until 8 o’clock.
Not at Rye. As Garr once told me after a 2 hour practice on Tuesday before the state championship three years ago: “If they don’t know it all now, they’re never going to know it.”
I spoke to assistant coach Mike Bruno for a while, who reiterated the refrain I’d heard so many times already this week: It’s tough to beat a team twice. Obviously, the championship games in the top four conferences are all rematches of regular season games. Rye beat Pleasantville 20-7 on opening day, and has won 56 in a row against Section 1 opponents, dating back six years.
Bruno spoke about how much growth Connor Eck has had in his first season as the quarter. The sophomore is so poised and confident, and picked apart Nanuet last week. I watched the video of the game today (lohud.com/live on Varsity Central Ch. 2). He was on the money with every ball, and might have found yet another big play threat in T.J. Storino. The duo connected twice for touchdowns.
Overall, it was a very loose atmosphere at Rye. There was rap music blasting when I walked in. One cool thing was that I got to see JV players who got moved up to varsity this week get handed their jerseys for the first time. They tried not smile when they got them, but you could tell it was a big deal.
The next generation at Rye awaits.