HARRISON — Conor Murphy knifed through the defense, across the goal line and finally came to a halt in the back of the end zone.
As teammates squeezed him, the senior running back turned toward the visiting Rye crowd and drove his arms skyward, signaling in jubilation that, yes, he had scored the touchdown the Garnets’ faithful had waited more than 44 long minutes for.
A moment later there was Murphy, one of the Rye starters coach Dino Garr had hoped to rest, even a little, with the playoffs a week away. The hero limped noticeably as he jogged to the bench.
The Garnets had hoped to escape Harrison healthy on Saturday, but they didn’t. But to them, all that mattered in the wake of the 83rd playing of the county’s most storied rivalry was the final score: Rye 8, Harrison 2.
“Anyone who said we should rest our starters, or that we’d play soft because we’re in the playoffs already, doesn’t know this team, doesn’t know this rivalry, and doesn’t know what this game means to our community,” junior quarterback Andrew Livingston said.
The Garnets (7-0) proved that at Harrison’s McGillcuddy Stadium as they cut the Huskies’ series lead to 42-38-3.
Hobbled senior captains Murphy and Chris Santangelo were among those who took the best from Harrison (4-3), a team that rallied to play a stingy, physical game just a week after Yorktown had knocked the preseason favorite from Class A playoff consideration.
The Huskies pressured the prolific Livingston repeatedly. They kept the game scoreless until senior Jake Marino blitzed and sacked the Rye quarterback for a safety less than a minute into the fourth quarter.
After a stop in their end, the Garnets, trailing 2-0, broke through on a punt attempt by Harrison’s Drew Estes. Six-foot-6 senior Paul Staudinger blocked it and sophomore Chase Pratt recovered, setting Rye up at its 44 with 8:32 to play.
Suddenly, what had been a weakness became the Garnets’ strength. Their offensive line powered an 11-play drive that was capped by Murphy’s 7-yard touchdown with 3:08 to play. Livingston (7 for 15 for 80 yards) added a 2-point pass to Santangelo.
“The line’s been a question mark, but today they proved they can hang with anyone,” said Murphy, who had 42 yards on 15 carries. “That’s a big Harrison line — it’s probably their strength — so I’m so proud of our boys.”
Junior Tim DeGraw intercepted Harrison’s last desperate bid. It was the fourth Huskies turnover — Rye committed none — and followed a fumble at the Rye 5 early in the fourth quarter.
“They scored one touchdown,” said Harrison coach Art Troilo Jr., whose defense limited the section’s second-highest scoring offense to 175 total yards. “You have to beat them when they only score one touchdown.”