Dino Garr won’t use the word “rebuilding.”
“We are in an inexperienced re-tooling year,” the veteran Rye coach said with a smile.
The Garnets are young. They had 10 senior starters on defense last year and nine senior starters on offense. The good news is that QB Andrew Livingston got a ton of experience as a freshman, and that Rye had a strong JV team. Garr has only 36 kids out, and they’re not exceptionally big, but if you know about Rye, you know the Garnets will compete … and will build, er, tool toward a stronger team.
“As a coaching staff our expectations are always going to be to be competitive,” Garr said. “Some years you feel you have it all and you can make a run. We’re young this year. My expectation is to still play hard and be competitive. You never know.”
“I expect all of us to work hard in practice and do the best we can,” two-way senior Jim Dugan said. “We’re going to take it one game at a time and see where that takes us.”
We lost a lot of good guys,” lineman Andrew Aquilino said. “We’re definitely looking toward a good season. I expect we’ll do pretty well. We have a lot of young guys, but we have a lot of backs, lot of fast guys. Our line isn’t the biggest line in history, but it’s going to work pretty well.”
- Livingston was inserted at quarterback after a couple of games last season because Garr thought QB Jake Meyerson could help the Garnets more as a running back.
“It was basically how we could be a better team,” Garr said. “With the running ability Jake had, and the fact that we were a little light in our running backs other than Joe Simolacaj, we might have more of a dual-edged sword. Jake really did a great job of accepting that we were a better team with him at tailback rather than at quarterback.”
So the freshman was given the ball.
“It was a learning experience,” Livingston said. “We had a good team, a lot of seniors, so I just had to step up, not turn the ball over, make good plays and try to not screw up too much.
“You learn what to look for, you learn how to compose yourself on the field. After last year you sort of know what to work on because of that. If you don’t complete a pass you have to work on that pass or that route or what to look for or what reads. So that definitely helps me this year.”
Garr said, “I think it presents experience and confidence. He’s going to get better. Playing quarterback for Dino Garr is not easy. So he’s learning it and accepting it. He’s one of our captains. That shows what our guys think of him. It shows you how young we are, too.”
“He looks great his year from what I’ve seen,” Dugan added. “He did a lot of camps this summer and I think he looks a lot better. His arm is stronger, he throws a nice spiral. I think he’s definitely improved his skill level.
- Livingston and the Garnets also rebounded from an 0-3 start—just the third in program history; all by a touchdown, to Somers, John Jay-Cross River and Ossining—to win five in a row, including a first-round playoff win over Pearl River, before losing to John Jay in the Class A semifinal.
“I think it definitely increases our confidence because we know that, even in the worst situations, we can always bounce back,” Dugan said. “And there’s going to be times during the season when you’re down and you’re going to need to bounce back. So I think that definitely increases our confidence.
“I remember one of our captains (Peter Wittwer), after we lost the third game against Ossining—a team we definitely should have beaten—he chewed out everybody and from that moment on we kind of just put it all together and came back with five wins in a row and went to the semifinals.”
“Any time you can be resilient,” Garr said, “and bounce back from a lot of adversity in the beginning … we lost to some very good teams … I think it helps us. I think the kids realize if they work hard and get better at what they do, they can turn the season around. Would it have been better to go 0-8? I think the fact that we turned it around and went to the semifinals was a good experience for us.”
- Returning for the Garnets (among others): Soph QB Andrew Livingston, two-way T Andrew Aquilino, OLB/RB Jim Dugan (the only returning defensive starter), soph wideout Tim DeGraw, TE/SE Jack Hasselman (who missed last year with an injury).
- Rye opens at Pearl River (a playoff rematch), and plays Sleepy Hollow, Eastchester, Greeley, John Jay-Cross River, Tappan Zee, closes with arch-rival Harrison. The Garnets will play only three home games, after playing only three last year, and Garr doesn’t know why.
- Rye went only to Iona Prep’s camp this summer—and only had a very small contingent there—so this really was a first day in pads together. A few kids were missing because of prior appointments, but Garr was happy about the communication.
“I liked the fact that we’re out here working hard, striving to get better,” he said. “I saw some very positive attitudes in terms of guys talking to one another and working and trying to get a better understanding of what’s going on. We’re a young team. I think our senior class is maybe eight guys. That’s why you see the short numbers this year, and we knew that.”
- Joke’s on me. Made a rookie mistake by texting Josh that Rye had only 18 kids at practice and looked really, really small. Fortunately he didn’t tweet it. About 20 minutes later, another 15 or so linemen chugged over from a faraway field where they had been working separately … and suddenly Rye looked a lot bigger.