PEARL RIVER — Under normal circumstances, Rye coach Dino Garr likes to try to divide carries equally among his backfield tandem of Jake Meyerson and Joe Simolacaj. But with the rain wreaking havoc on the grass surface at Pearl River for Thursday's Class
A quarterfinal, Garr turned to the bruising Simolacaj.
"Hopefully, they complement each other, but today with the way that the weather was, Joe became a little bit more of a featured back," Garr said. "He's a load, he's a three-year starter and our kids rely on him."
Simolacaj set the tone for the type of game the Garnets wanted to play, rushing for 114 yards on 20 carries in Rye's 14-7 win. Behind Simolacaj, the Garnets ran for 198 yards while holding the Pirates to 73.
The win was the fifth in a row for the Garnets (5-3), who have rallied since getting off to an 0-3 start. Next up they'll play at No. 1A John Jay, which beat Rye in its first game of the season, on Tuesday in the semifinals.
"After we lost those first three games, our playoff run started," Garr said. "This is our fifth game in a row that for us had to be a playoff-type game. The fact that we lost to (John Jay) and now have a chance to make it up is all that we can ask for."
With the rain intensifying right before kickoff, Rye and Pearl River (6-2) had trouble getting anything going in the first quarter. But in the second quarter, it was Simolacaj who made the first big play of the game, breaking free for a 42-yard scamper to set up Rye on Pearl River's 10-yard line.
"That got the momentum going for them, and they just fed off of that," Pearl River coach Jeff Michael said. "I had referred to them before as a lion waiting on its prey to make the first mistake. They saw it, and they jumped all over it."
Three plays later, James Dugan scored on a 10-yard run to give Rye a 7-0 lead.
On Pearl River's next possession, Rye's Andrew Hudson intercepted a tipped ball and returned it all the way to the Pearl River 1.
"It's their jailbreak," Garr said of Pearl River's play call. "They do it on either side, and I think our kids were prepared for it. They had run it before, and we had pretty good coverage on that. It was a great play. Obviously, the guy probably could have caught it, but that's part of football."
The turnover set up freshman quarterback Andrew Livingston's 1-yard touchdown run to make it 14-0 with less than five minutes remaining in the half. The rest was up to Rye's defense, which was able to push the Pirates around up front.
"They overpowered us," Michael said. "They were beasts — they're big boys. That's what helped them in the trenches all game."
After being shut out for 3 1/2 quarters, Michael brought in quarterback Chris Van Houten, who capped a 53-yard drive with a touchdown pass to Sean Wilson.
Rye recovered the ensuing onside kick.