Rivalry Week: Community pride, playoffs in tug-of-war
Below is my story on the tug-of-war coaches and teams face during Rivalry Week. They are forced to toe a strange line: Worry about the playoffs looming while respecting how important this week’s games are to the communities.
No one will be forced to toe that line like Rye’s Dino Garr. His team has had its best season since moving to Class A in 2009 and is eager to cash in after missing the playoffs last year. As you’ll read below, Garr and his staff have prepared backups this week to play more than normal in order to rest some of the team’s two-way standouts. Still, Garr said he wants to win, but the players are the team’s “No. 1 concern.”
As Rye prepared this week for its annual football spectacle against Harrison, coach Dino Garr and his staff kept one eye peeled on the Huskies and one on the not-so-distant future.
The explosive Garnets have steamrolled through the regular season a year after missing the playoffs for the first time in 18 years. They will be a No. 1 seed in next week’s Class A quarterfinals and will enter the postseason as the consensus favorite to win it all.
While no one at Rye is about to wish away its success, it will only complicate Saturday’s game at Harrison.
Coaches and teams across the area have been left in a similar bind during a “Rivalry Week.” Games like Rye-Harrison carry great meaning to the communities but little if any in the standings.
“We’re making sure other people are ready to step in,” Garr said of his mentality. “We’re not going to sell out our season. We’re going to play this game to win it, but we were out of the playoffs last year for the first time in 18 years and we didn’t like it. Right now, that’s our No. 1 concern.”
The Garnets learned a difficult lesson in 2010. They drove in the final minute and scored to beat Harrison in one of the series’ epic finishes. The next week, Rye hobbled into the playoffs and was bounced in the first round by Somers, then watched as Harrison won the section and reached the state final.
Garr said his team will still focus on beating Harrison, but he plans to sprinkle in reserves for key two-way starters like Conor Murphy and Chris Santangelo and along Rye’s thin lines.
“This has pretty much been my policy, but that was a perfect example of expending too much energy in one game,” Garr said. “We were beat up and they were still basking in the glory of the game.”