Expectations for the Rye football team changed in an instant this offseason. The Garnets are still contenders to win a Section 1 title, but the days of them being favorites are over.
Rye's run of six consecutive Class B sectional titles has come to an end without the Garnets even losing a game. Winners of three of the last four state championships, Rye moved up to Class A because of growing enrollment.
When the Garnets open their season tonight at home against Class A power Ossining, the dynasty is officially in danger.
"Still, the expectations here are really high," Garnets quarterback Connor Eck said. "We feel we can compete in Class A. We're still a work-in-progress a little bit. But if we come together, we can have another great year."
What Rye has accomplished the last six seasons is astounding.
The Garnets own the state's longest current winning streak at 25 games, and they're 47-1 over the last three seasons. They made five state final appearances in six years and are 57-0 against Section 1 opponents since 2002.
"It was quite an achievement, we know that," Rye coach Dino Garr said. "We had quite a run and we look back on what we've done with pride. But that was then. This team has to establish its own identity and start its own legacy."
The Garnets just might have what it takes to keep their streak alive.
Eck, a 6-foot-2 junior, was an all-state pick last season after throwing for 1,212 yards with 14 touchdowns and only three interceptions. Six of his touchdown passes came in the postseason, including one in each of Rye's three state tournament games.
Rye's backfield could be among the best in Section 1.
Cole McCormack, a 5-9, 195-pound senior, is one of the area's most durable runners after piling up 1,070 yards last season. He averaged 9.6 yards per carry and scored nine touchdowns.
McCormack will get plenty of support from seniors Brendan Nagle and T.J. Storino, and junior Christian Bonaventura. Nagle, at 6-2, 195, played mainly defense last season but has proven to be a a tough runner this preseason. Storino is a speed back and Bonaventura is a versatile runner who showed glimpses of his potential late last season.
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Charlie Rollins is Rye's only returning starting lineman. Tackle Brian Levinson, a 6-3, 250-pound senior, and guard David Shaughnessy will step in as starters, and juniors Jack O'Callaghan, Brian Pickup and Kevin Turco will play prominent roles.
"We don't have the depth that we might have had last year," Garr said. "To open up with a game like Ossining is going to be a challenge."
Rye's schedule ranks among the toughest in Section 1. Its league schedule includes rival Harrison, Eastchester and Roosevelt, all of which are playoff contenders. The Garnets' other non-league game is against Sleepy Hollow, which is considered a favorite to win the Class B championship.
Tonight against Ossining, though, is as highly anticipated as any game Rye has played this decade.
"This is definitely one of the best teams we've faced in a while," Eck said. "They have a lot of size, a lot of speed and the play of the (defensive backs) is tremendous. We just have to do all of the little things right and we'll be successful."