Rye stuns Harrison in final seconds, 21-20
RYE -- More than a half-hour after the final play, Brian Pickup couldn't stop shaking. His cutoff undershirt was wet and his pants were wetter, but being cold wasn't the issue. The senior felt excited, still a little nervous, and could taste a little of every emotion in between.
Rye quarterback Connor Eck scrambles in for the game-winning 2-point conversion in the final seconds of a 21-20 win over Harrison.
"It's unbelievable," Pickup said. "This is something I won't forget."
For many of the thousands at Nugent Stadium on Saturday, Rye's 21-20 victory over archrival Harrison will be burned into their memories for just as long.
Pickup and senior quarterback Connor Eck took star turns on one of those forever drives, a 14-play, 80-yard march capped by a 3-yard touchdown pass that Pickup wrestled away from a defender with 15 seconds remaining. Eck then ran in a 2-point conversion for the final points in the 80th edition of Westchester County's fiercest football rivalry.
This dramatic theater left the Garnets to swim in the Rye Brook once more after their eighth straight victory in the series. The snakebit Huskies were devastated after holding leads of 14-7 and 20-13 until "The Game" turned one final time on what Rye fans can consider their version of "The Drive."
"I can't summarize this," Eck said. "It is nuts."
The endless swings in momentum were nearly as indescribable. The Garnets (5-1) assumed control with a touchdown on their second drive, grabbing a 7-0 lead on Joe Simolacaj's 1-yard run.
But the Garnets, seemingly in control, lost possession on a fumble early in the second quarter. Harrison quickly drove 41 yards in five plays, all runs by senior Tanner Knox, who had a touchdown on that drive and the next one for a 14-7 Harrison lead.
The Huskies received the second-half kickoff but a revitalized Rye defense forced a three-and-out. The offense then sustained a 13-play, 77-yard drive behind the legs of Eck, Simolacaj and Christian Bonaventura. A 1-yard plunge by Eck cut the score to 14-13, but Steve Ricciardi broke through to block the extra point.
The deficit stuck in Dino Garr's mind when he went for, and failed, on a fourth-and-two from the Rye 26 with less than eight minutes to play in the game. Harrison responded with trickery, with Charlie Drago throwing a 37-yard touchdown to James Tirella on a halfback pass on third-and-22. But the Huskies' breathing room disappeared when a bad snap exchange prevented Roberto Bruno's extra-point attempt.
The Garnets' winning drive wasn't easy. It stretched over 5:20 and required fourth-and-12 and fourth-and-seven completions from Eck to Pickup, who caught both passes in traffic.
Eck later scrambled for 15 yards to the Harrison 3 before his fade toss to Pickup. The 6-foot-3 target took the pass away from the defender in the back right corner of the end zone.
"It was mine," Pickup said. "I decided, that's my ball. I have to do it for me, for the team, for the town. I had to pull that ball away and score that touchdown."
Garr said he deliberated for five seconds before choosing to go for two at the urging of Eck, the quarterback whose status was in doubt all week. The three-year starter wore a glove on his throwing hand after having 10 stitches removed from his right thumb Wednesday. He missed last week's game and didn't throw until late Thursday night.
"He sent me an e-mail after saying, 'It's not great, but I think I can throw,' " Garr said. "I don't think he threw as well as he could, but he's a winner. He's just a great leader. That's why we went with him."
Harrison coach Art Troilo Jr. left the field after the game and attempts to reach him afterward for comment were unsuccessful.