SYRACUSE - The personification of Rye's football dynasty ripped around the right side of the line and rumbled well past the Class B state-title-clinching first down. Kyle Ramalho was wise enough to stay inbounds and keep the clock running, even if it meant re-injuring a body he's brutalized for four seasons.
Ramalho's legacy at Rye was cemented in yesterday's gutsy 16-12 win over Section 3's Oneida at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse. The game's MVP ran for 136 yards on 24 carries, capped by the 19-yard run in the closing seconds - despite a possible broken rib and a shoulder that "popped out" - as the Garnets (13-0) staved off a comeback.
Not only does Ramalho leave as the school's most accomplished player, guiding the Garnets to back-to-back titles and three in four years. The senior just might depart as the toughest.
"My ankle hurt all week and I didn't practice until Thursday," sophomore quarterback Connor Eck said. "Watching Kyle, though, since last year has been an inspiration. He's had a chipped ankle (bone) last year and was hurt all year. But he's taught us all that playing hurt is what football is all about."
Ramalho, who tore ligaments in a finger on his left hand last week, said he injured his rib in the third quarter. He hobbled off the field after his first down in the final minute and was unable to raise his left arm when he received his MVP plaque after the game.
"Kyle represents us in every way - soul, spirit, everything," Rye coach Dino Garr said. "If you look at him as a football player, he's outstanding. But if you look at him as a young man and what he's done for our program, I can't begin to tell you how much he's developed and become almost like a son to me."
Ramalho's toughness symbolized a Rye program which is arguably the best in New York.
The 5-foot-10, 220-pounder is the lone contributor to all three of Rye's state title teams. He has a 47-1 varsity record with the Garnets and guided them to 25 straight wins, the longest current streak in the state.
"Kyle's always hurt. He's an old man," Rye center Ryan Rossi said jokingly. "This game defined him; playing hurt and running on that last play the way he did was unbelievable."
Ramalho got plenty of help yesterday from a Rye team plagued by injuries.
Eck overcame a sprained ankle that knocked him out of last week's win over Hudson Falls and threw for 56 yards and a touchdown. Cole McCormack, a junior who missed practice time this week with hamstring soreness, added 96 yards and a touchdown as Rye built a 13-6 first-quarter lead.
Topher Triano, a senior defensive end, recorded three sacks after an Achilles' strain limited him this week as well.
Rye staved off an Oneida team that simply wouldn't go away in the second half. The Garnets took a 16-6 lead into the fourth, which could have been larger had they not committed 13 penalties totaling 113 yards.
They had consecutive personal-foul penalties on a third-quarter Oneida possession as the Indians used to a unique formation where the linemen were spread out at the hash mark and quarterback Ryan Kramer was alone in the backfield.
"We got a lot of stupid penalties. I don't understand what was going on," Rye linebacker Donald Keough said. "They were in the weird offense, and we were stopping them. But our penalties kept giving them first downs. It got frustrating."
Rye eventually stopped Oneida. But when the Garnets failed to convert on fourth-and-one at the Indians 12 with 6:59 left, Oneida responded.
The Indians, who managed 152 total yards, got 88 on a 17-play scoring drive. They converted twice on third down and scored on an 8-yard pass from Kramer to Brandon Miles on fourth-and-goal with 2:09 left. The extra-point kick was wide.
Paul Reisner, a Rye senior, recovered Oneida's onside kick before three straight Ramalho runs and a first down sealed the victory.
"I survived just long enough," Ramalho said. "I knew I had to suck it up and stop being a baby there in the fourth quarter. As much pain as I was in, this is the happiest feeling of my life."