Rye's fourth-down magic sinks Spring Valley
RYE -- There was little regard for conventional wisdom as Connor Eck kept everybody guessing.
He simply refused to yield the field.
The senior quarterback kept Rye in gear, converting six times without fail on fourth down in the opening half. And we're not talking inches. He gave the defense an opportunity to rest easy, and the re-energized Garnets downed Spring Valley 30-20 Friday night at Nugent Stadium.
"It's unbelievable," senior fullback Kevin Turco said. "I was kind of surprised we kept going for it, but you have to remember who's playing quarterback. We have some great receivers, too, so we converted every time. That kills the defense, brings their pride down."
A little more purpose on the practice field helped the Garnets (3-1) bounce right back after last week's loss to Nyack.
"That was really a wake-up call for us," senior linebacker Briggs Barton said. "We came back and changed the way that we practice. We had more focus. And we played with a lot more discipline. We made a lot of mistakes last week that cost us."
Eck sent a message on the first possession of the game, standing patiently in the pocket until Brian Pickup got free on fourth-and-14 at the Tigers 34 and then again on fourth-and-nine at the Spring Valley 19. The senior tight end gathered in both passes. Eck later kept the legs driving and scored on a 5-yard run to give Rye the lead.
Jake Meyerson added the PAT.
The celebration didn't last long as Tigers senior quarterback Shaquille Gould put the right touch on the ball and connected with Andre Fils down the right sideline for a 43-yard touchdown. Mike Pierre kicked the point after, making it a 7-7 game.
"It was very big. It gave us momentum," Gould said. "Andre is our playmaker. He gave me a look that said, 'I want the ball,' and I was like, 'All right.' "
Spring Valley had the Garnets facing fourth-and-four at midfield, but Eck coaxed the defense across the line with a hard count. A flag went up. He found Pickup again on fourth-and-eight from the Tigers 42, and Turco finished the drive, bouncing around the left end for a 5-yard touchdown run.
The kick was blocked.
"Our line was getting a great push," said Turco, who had 85 yards on 19 carries. "Spring Valley sent a couple of guys on that play, so I bounced it out and took whatever I could get."
An energetic Rye defense made some quick adjustments and clamped down on the Tigers and shifty running back Daniel Chang, forcing a punt. Kevin Ramsey stuck a hand out and knocked the ball down, giving Rye great field position.
The drive sputtered momentarily, but Eck kept the chains moving with a pair of short runs on fourth down.
"It just breaks you down," Spring Valley coach Andrew Delva said. "We always talk about getting off the field on third-and-long, and you damn sure better make a stop on fourth down."
Eck, though, came up limping after he converted the second time, and was on the sideline watching the rest of the game with a left ankle injury. Meyerson, who took over at quarterback, kicked a 25-yard field goal to give the Garnets a 16-7 lead, and they added two more touchdowns after the intermission and forced the Tigers (1-3) to play catch-up.