Confusing the two running backs is inevitable. The jersey numbers are similar - Kyle Ramalho wears No. 42 and Cole McCormack is 41 - and their size and running styles are so alike, announcers consistently call out one of their names when the other actually carries the ball.
"Thank you," McCormack said. "Kyle is a bulldozer. To be mistaken for Kyle, I take that as a compliment."
As well he should. Ramalho, a 5-foot-10, 220-pound senior, has been one of the area's most imposing runners the last two seasons, leading the defending Class B state champs to their sixth straight state semifinal appearance.
He's been paired this year with McCormack, a 5-10, 190-pound junior, and there might not be a better, or more menacing, tandem of backs in the area. Maybe even the state in Class B.
"They're two totally different players," Rye lineman Ryan Rossi said. "Together they are the perfect combination of speed and power, youth and experience. Count on Cole to turn it up and take the ball 50 yards. Watch out for big Kyle to become the beast he is on the goal line."
Ramalho and McCormack carried Rye (11-0) past a physical Highland (Section 9) team in last week's state quarterfinal. Ramalho rushed 19 times for 115 yards and three touchdowns, and earned the game's most valuable offensive player honors.
McCormack added 94 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries for the Garnets, who face Section 2's Hudson Falls in a state semifinal tomorrow at 4 p.m. at Dietz Stadium in Kingston.
On the year, the duo has combined for 1,571 yards and 25 touchdowns. McCormack is ahead of Ramalho in rushing, gaining 810 yards on just 85 carries (9.5 average). Ramalho, though, has been the pile-driver up the middle, a role he's mastered in three years as a starter.
"They give us a tremendous amount of flexibility," Rye coach Dino Garr said. "They're quality kids who want to do well, and I think they feed off each other. If you want to get the ball on this team, you have to block. They do that for each other."
McCormack has been on Rye's varsity since he was a freshman but saw time last season only on defense. A standout lacrosse player, McCormack's athleticism and work ethic convinced the coaches he was ready for an increased role.
"We knew we had something special with Cole," Garr said. "It was a matter of him fitting in and feeling comfortable. With Luke (O'Malley) getting hurt, it gave Cole more of an opportunity and he's really responded to it."
That opportunity for McCormack couldn't have come at a better time.
McCormack received limited carries in his first three games before he was unleashed against Harrison. While Ramalho carried the ball 35 times against Harrison last season, McCormack took the load this time. He gained a season-high 140 yards and a touchdown on 20 attempts in the 28-3 win.
"We knew Harrison was going to gear up to stop me," Ramalho said. "When we saw him run the first couple of times, we realized what he was capable of. What he did was amazing."
Ramalho, a Super 11 selection, has no qualms about splitting carries with McCormack.
It's part of the maturity that Ramalho brings to this team. He saw significant time on the 2005 state-championship team, and relives the agony of losing in the state semifinal the following year.
Rye, the six-time sectional champion, is 45-1 with Ramalho on the roster.
"You might as well call him 'Old Man Kyle.' He has gray hair in his beard, a tattoo, and a voice like Zeus," Rossi said.
"There's a great deal of respect for Kyle on this team, for what he's been able to do and how he's continued to play hurt," Garr added. "He's been an inspirational leader for us, and I think he wants to pass it on."
McCormack will assume that role next season for Rye.
Knowing the way the Garnets run their offense, McCormack expects he'll split carries. Ramalho has taught him that the numbers don't matter. Unless, of course, you're counting victories.
"Honestly, I don't care about carries," Ramalho said. "Whatever it takes to get the win. I don't care if I have to block and get the ball once. As long as we win, none of it matters."