KINGSTON - Kyle Ramalho was sick and missed football practice at Rye on Monday, which is the day the team watches film of its upcoming opponent.
When the senior fullback returned on Tuesday, every report he got from teammates was that Section 9 champion Highland was a physical team that liked to hit.
"I was happy," Ramalho said. "I'm all for playing physical teams. I want to hit."
Ramalho enjoyed every second of last night's Class B state quarterfinal victory. He bulled his way to 115 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries to power the defending state champion Garnets to a 35-6 win over Highland at Dietz Stadium.
Rye (11-0) ran for 312 yards in the game to earn a spot in the state semifinals for the sixth straight year. It will play next Saturday back at Dietz Stadium at 4 p.m. against the winner of Section 7's Beekmantown and Section 2's Hudson Valley, which play their state quarterfinal today.
The Garnets enter the semifinal after overcoming a sloppy start last night, which included two first-quarter fumbles against a Highland team (7-4) that had six turnovers in its Section 9 final win over New Paltz.
"Highland is a quick team that lives by the turnovers," Rye coach Dino Garr said. "They're very aggressive. We finally got the mind-set that we had to play with the same kind of aggressiveness. It was a wake-up call."
Putting the ball in Ramalho's hands in the second quarter certainly bolstered that mind-set.
The 5-foot-10, 225-pounder scored on an 8-yard run in the first before muscling the Garnets down the field in the second. He carried the ball six times for 49 yards on a 50-yard scoring drive, punching in a 4-yard score with 3:02 left in the half.
Rye forced Highland to punt just before the half and marched 41 yards in three plays. Cole McCormack broke a 16-yard touchdown run with 1:12 remaining as the Garnets went into the half ahead, 21-0.
"Our guys played hard and the only thing that happened was that they got beat by a very talented football team," Highland coach Carl Relya said. "We talked during the week that we couldn't let Rye get us in a hole and throw the hammer down with the quick score. We were fighting and I would have loved to gone into halftime down 7-0. But they converted twice and got those two quick touchdowns. That really did hurt."
Ramalho and McCormack took turns hurting Highland in the second half as Rye's line overpowered the Huskies up front.
McCormack finished with 94 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Ramalho, the game's most valuable back, put the game out of reach early in the fourth with a 3-yard touchdown.
"Kyle runs hard and can carry four people with him," said Rye left tackle Chris Lavelle, whom the Garnets ran behind most of the night. "He actually makes us look good, better than we do him. He loves hitting. We'll pick him up after he's tackled and there's a big smile on his face. He loves this type of game."
Highland's only score came in the third quarter when Josh Duggan blocked a punt and returned it 31 yards for a score.
Connor Eck connected with Donald Keough on an 11-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown strike for Rye, which is one win away from reaching the state final for the fifth time in six years.
"We've got to get over this complacency and thinking that we're just going to show up and get things done," Garr said. "Our players know that's not going to be the case."