There’s no such thing as a meaningless Rye-Harrison game. The last two years, looking back, were pretty close.
Not to take anything away from these matchups, but 2007 and 2008 didn’t quite have the same level of suspense or intrigue of the previous seasons. Rye was clearly the better team and expected to win. The Garnets were unbeaten both years and faced Harrison teams that were longshots to win championships. We got spoiled in the earlier years of the decade. Rye, though, dominated the last two contests and went on to win state titles while Harrison took first-round playoff exits.
Finally this year, the hype is back.
“The Game” has high stakes again, not only because the teams are back in the same class together. This game will decide a playoff spot in Class A. The winner is in. The loser is out. What more could you ask for?
This is what we’ve come accustomed to in this rivalry, especially in the 2000s. Harrison dominated the 90s, winning nine out of 10 meetings, and taking three of the first four this decade. But the rivalry has shifted drastically. Rye has won the last six games, the first four being some of the most intense games I’ve ever witnessed.
Check out the rundown:
Regular season: Rye 21, Harrison 7. This was Rye’s official arrival as a Section 1 power in what turned out to be the start of a dynasty. The Garnets took on a Harrison team that didn’t have star fullback/linebacker Luigi Rogliano and posted a rather commanding 14-point win. The Garnets had spent all preseason and the first few weeks this year claiming they were Dome-bound. This game confirmed it.
Playoffs: Rye 22, Harrison 15: In the Class B semifinals, the 8-0 Garnets survived their toughest test en route to the state championship game, beating Harrison. What I remember most from this game was an incredible leaping touchdown catch Patrick Bassett made on a pass from John Niehaus. It was a sign that this Rye team wouldn’t be denied.
The game was not scheduled (See: Piner System)
Rye 14, Harrison 0: Again, this was as thorough a two-touchdown beating as you’ll ever see. Both teams were 4-0 at the time and top ranked in their respective Journal News polls. Rye went into Harrison and controlled the clock, the Harrison rushing attack and a secure grip on the rivalry. Robert Nieves scored two touchdowns, Harrison was held to 34 rushing yards on 28 carries and completed6 of 16 passes. Rye went on to win the state championship in B and Harrison claimed the Section 1 Class A title and lost in the state semis.
Rye 19, Harrison 18: To this day, this was one of the best and most memorable games I’ve ever witnessed. The teams were again 5-0 and ranked No. 1 in the polls when Rye welcomed a heavily favored Harrison team. This game centered around two bonehead lapses in judgement and a couple of missed PATs. Both teams were penalized for a player spiking the ball after a touchdown, which I’ve never seen a play do in any other game. Harrison led 12-0 in the second quarter but trailed 13-12 at the half, mainly because they missed an extra point and then tried to make up for it with a two-point conversion, which also failed. Harrison retook the lead when injured Jimmy Falasca came into the game and dominated on the ground, leading the Huskies to a score. But Franny Archibald led Rye back, scoring the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. The game ended with Harrison quarterback Matt Ciraco, facing a fourth-and-short, turning to hand the ball off to a back who went the wrong way. Ciraco was tackled behind the line to finish off a potential game-winning drive.
Rye 27, Harrison 7: The Huskies actually led this game 7-0 at the half, but it was never really that suspensful. The Garnets exploded after the break. Jordan Eck, who admittedly played the worst two quarters of his life, guided his team back, rushing for a touchdown and throwing two more in the fourth quarter to seal it. Both teams were 3-0 at the time.
Rye 28, Harrison 3: The Garnets earned one of their most lopsided wins in the rivalries history. Connor Eck, just a sophomore, threw two touchdowns and ran for another, and Cole McCormack gained 140 yards to put his name on the map. Harrison managed only a second-quarter field goal and really never threatened Rye.
I’ve been fortunate enough to be at all of these games. Will Saturday’s be another classic or will Rye’s dominance of the last two years continue? It’s hard to say at this point. But I do know that the game has spice again. The stakes haven’t been this high since they met in the playoffs in ‘03. That’s enough for me.
Last year I asked what your favorite Rye-Harrison moment was. If you’d like to share, please do. But I’m more interested this year in what the biggest buildup to a Rye-Harrison game has ever been. Were they ever both 8-0 or 9-0? Just curious.
We’ll be pumping gas into the Rye-Harrison hype machine all week as we get ready for Saturday’s game at Feeley Field.