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RYE — Tyler Keech stood on the John Jay-Cross River sideline with his back to the field. He couldn’t bear to watch; not after what happened last week or what had transpired in the fourth quarter leading up that point.
Keech, John Jay-CR's junior quarterback, let the roar of his teammates — both on the play and the ensuing measurement — signify that the Indians were going to hold on and beat Rye.
John Jay-CR's defense stopped the Garnets on a fourth-and-2 at the 4-yard line with 2:33 to play, preserving a 14-7 victory.
“The defense was incredible tonight, right down to the end there,” said Keech, who rushed for 157 yards and a touchdown. “The fourth quarter was the longest 10 minutes of my life. When they got down to the goal-line at the end, I just couldn’t watch.”
Danny Caiola came up with several big tackles late, and Zack Herzog, Declan Myer and Anthony Scapperotti all played terrific throughout for John Jay-CR (1-1).
It was a much-needed victory — and even more desperately needed emotional boost — for John Jay-CR after what happened last Friday. The Indians squandered a 21-6 halftime lead and lost their opener to Ossining.
“Last week was like bizarro world,” John Jay-CR coach Jimmy Clark said. “We were down to our second- and third-teamers because of injuries. It was mayhem. Anything that could go wrong, did go wrong. Tonight, it almost happened again.”
John Jay-CR followed a similar pattern on Friday. Keech got the Indians on the board in the first quarter with an 8-yard touchdown on a keeper, capping an eight-play, 62-yard drive. He keyed the series with a 33-yard pass completion to Tom Weingarten.
In the second, the Indians capitalized on one of Rye’s three turnovers to extend their lead. Following a Danny Caiola interception in the end zone, John Jay-CR went 80 yards in 12 plays, highlighted by Keech’s 50-yard keeper. Jack Lambert, who alternated with Keech at quarterback, ran up the middle for a 2-yard touchdown.
“The line was pushing guys and making blocks,” Keech said. “I had the easy job of just running.”
Rye was struggling to get anything going until Teddy Ice recovered a fumble at midfield early in the fourth. Andrew Livingston, a freshman quarterback who came in for an injured Jake Meyerson, led the Garnets down the field. Joe Simolacaj, who rushed for 82 yards on 19 carries, ran in a 3-yard score to cut the deficit with seven minutes left.
John Jay-CR went three-and-out on its next possession and gave the Garnets the ball back near midfield. Simolacaj’s 21-yard run, followed by a 10-yarder, set Rye up at the John Jay-CR 13 with under three minutes left.
Facing a fourth-and-two at the 4, however, Rye fumbled on a handoff and recovered it at the line of scrimmage, roughly a foot short of the first-down marker.
John Jay-CR picked up a first down on the next possession to survive another comeback attempt.
“When you play a program like that, you know they're not going to roll over for you,” Clark said. “The defense was tremendous. They came up with the big plays when we needed them. They got a drive on us. Outside of that, defense was solid.
“We had a sense of urgency coming off that last loss,” Keech said. “This is going to give us momentum going into the rest of the season.