The opening night of Playoff Weekend featured a little bit of everything.
As great as the Arlington-Carmel game sounds, Class A clearly gets the headlines. It’s astounding when you think that the four teams remaining have a combined six losses. Two of those teams, Roosevelt and Lakeland, have lost games in-conference by 23 and 30 points.
It’s also funny when you think about this: Rye moved up to Class A from B. And to win a title, it will likely have to beat a pair of borderline AA teams in Poughkeepsie and possibly Roosevelt.
Anyway, here’s a look back at tonight’s action:
Rye 34, Nyack 7: The defending Class A champs are done and are bounced out in convincing fashion. I cannot remember the last time I saw Nyack on the wrong side of the scoreboard like this. Could it be possibly the Indians haven’t lost by 27 points in a game this decade? I wouldn’t doubt it.
There are so many reasons why. First and foremost, give all the credit to Rye. This program has a way of finding an opponents weakness and not only capitalizing on it, but using it to rip their hearts out. Nyack is a good team, I don’t care what anyone says. Sure, they’re not that big up front. But many of the best Nyack teams weren’t either. Rye, though, every year is so fundamentally sound, so tough and executes defensive gameplans better than any I’ve ever seen. Outside of the 41-0 loss to Chenango Forks in the 2004 state final, I can’t remember Rye ever being overmatched on defense. Credit to Dino Garr and especially defensive coach Tom Maloney. He’s the best coordinator out there, no question.
Part of me, though, thinks Nyack lost tonight’s game two weeks ago when Ray Nichols injured his knee. Even without Nichols, Nyack probably should have beaten Ossining that night. But the loss of Nichols was as much mental as it was physical for the Indians, who looked up to their Super 11 quarterback. Indians coach John Castellano could sense there was a slight loss of confidence this week even when Nichols’ availability was still in question. Castellano admitted that he learned on Wednesday that Nichols wasn’t going to play. John Besas is a nice player. But against a Rye defense with eight in the box, the Indians didn’t have much of a chance.
Rye’s offensive line has been incredible the last two weeks. Charlie Rollins has really come this season as one of the elite, and Brian Levinson and Brian Powers dominated from the middle of the first quarter on tonight. Levinson is a house. Nobody is going to move him.
Every time I watched Rye a few more players catch my attention. Tonight it was middle linebacker Joe Simolacaj, a sophomore, and junior defensive end Brian Pickup. Pickup is a very good receiver, too, as is Jack O’Callaghan, who caught a big touchdown before the half. O’Callaghan reminds me a lot of his brother, Patrick, at safety, too. Very steady and a clear leader on the field.
Rye’s ability to control the line of scrimmage and tackle was the reason it was able to run away from Nyack and why I really like its chance to get back to the state tournament. When I look at the teams remaining, I don’t see one that will be able to match up.