Down seven midway through the fourth quarter, the Garnets drove 80 yards in 14 plays over the course of 5:20. They converted a fourth-and-12 and a fourth-and-7 when senior Brian Pickup caught passes in traffic from senior quarterback Connor Eck. Then, on the second play after Eck scrambled to the Harrison five, Pickup wrestled away a fade pass for a 3-yard touchdown catch with just 15 seconds to play. (You can see the TD in Matt Brown’s excellent photo.)
Even then, the outcome was very much in doubt. Dino Garr, always the aggressor, right or wrong, decided to try for the two-point conversion. Here’s how Garr described his thought process.
“We were home. It took about five seconds to decide we were going for two,” Garr said. “We had an extra point blocked earlier so there was no guarantee we would get the tie score, and then what? We thought the momentum was on our side. I looked at Connor and he said, ‘Let’s do it,’ and we did it.”
Indeed, they did. Eck rolled right on a bootleg and raced into the end zone to give Rye a 21-20 lead. Nugent Stadium was bedlam. Children that lined the end zone where the touchdown was scored started to storm the field, and the officials called a 15-yard penalty on the Garnets, forcing them to kick from their 25.
A short kick gave Harrison the ball near midfield. Vin Nicita completed a pass to James Tirella to about the 35. Roberto Bruno tried a 53-yard field goal as time expired but the kick sailed short and right, sending the Garnets and their fans into mayhem.
As you’d expect, Harrison was devastated. It fell behind 7-0 after a fumble on its opening drive by Steve Ricciardi, but after a Rye fumble, Ricciardi and Tanner Knox (right) led the Huskies on a pair of touchdown drives. Knox scored on a pair of touchdown runs to hand Harrison a 14-7 lead. Better yet, the Huskies received the ball to start the second half.
On its first drive, Rye marched for a second score, a 1-yard plunge by Eck, but Ricciardi broke through to block the extra point. Early on in the fourth quarter, Rye had regained possession and faced a critical fourth-and-2 from its own territory. Garr played aggressively, but Eck slipped as he tried a bootleg for the first down and Harrison took over.
The Huskies were pushed way back on a personal foul penalty but turned to trickery on third-and-22. Charlie Drago ran a halfback pass and threw a 37-yard touchdown to Tirella to give Harrison a 20-13 lead with 5:35 to play. But Bruno never attempted the kick after a bad snap and it cost the Huskies a crucial point.
“In essence, they were a point ahead of us, so the touchdown wasn’t that bad,” Garr said. “We were just lucky they didn’t get the extra point. That gave us life. Yeah, we were down, but we weren’t out. And things turned out the right way.”
Party because of Eck. The senior’s hand left him as a serious question mark up until Friday. Eck had 10 stitches removed on Wednesday, but didn’t really attempt to throw until after practice on Thursday night in the gym. He e-mailed Garr and texted the team’s four other captains to alert them that he could throw well enough to start at quarterback.
Still, Eck was largely untested until today’s game. He wore a glove to protect his right hand. Underneath, his right thumb was wrapped in a bandage.
“He threw yesterday, but it was nothing like this,” Pickup said.
Looking at him in a drenched uniform, I asked Eck (No. 11, below, in Rye Brook) how the thumb felt today. He smiled.
“It feels awesome right now,” he said.
FINAL STATS —
Passing: Connor Eck 8-12, 109 yards, 1 TD; Jake Meyerson 0-1. Total: 8-13, 109.
Receiving: Brian Pickup 5-70; Jack Concavage 1-19; Garrett Chapman 1-17; Joe Simolacaj 1-4. Total: 8-109.
Rushing: Christian Bonaventura 21-67, TD; Simolacaj 10-50, TD; Eck 12-40, TD; Kevin Turco 4-8; Nick O’Malley 1-(-2). Total: 48-163.
Sacks: Anthony Vitiello 1.5; Michael Collins 0.5.
Fumble recoveries: Matt DeGraw.
Leading tacklers: Kevin Ramsey 6; Vitiello 6.
Passing: Vin Nicita 3-4, 99 yards; Charlie Drago 1-1, 37 yards, TD. Total: 4-5, 136.
Receiving: James Tirella 2-60, TD; Steve Ricciardi 1-25; Alex Acompora 1-51. Total: 4-136.
Rushing: Tanner Knox 19-75, 2 TD; Ricciardi 4-38; Acompora 4-7; Nicita 6-1. Total: 33-121.
Sacks: Duke Alvora 1; Alex Beckett 1.
Fumble recoveries: Alvora.
Leading tacklers: Brandon Bonistall 10; Knox 9; Alvora 5.
Plays: 61-38, Rye.
Yards: 272-257, Rye.
Penalties: 3-25, Rye; 4-40, Harrison.
First downs: 14-11, Rye.
Time of possession: 28:52-19:08, Rye