Time has been an asset for the Rye Garnets’ this year. Week after week, game after game, the Garnets have used a relenting offensive attack to wear down opposing defenses, showing an incredible ability to break close games wide open in a matter of minutes.
“We’ve done that all season,” Rye junior receiver Tim DeGraw said. “We’ve got those big plays; we know they’re going to come eventually. They always happen at the right times.”
Friday’s matchup with Tappan Zee was no different, and the Garnets are now one win away from achieving their primary preseason goal.
Rye advanced to the Section 1 championship for the first time since 2008, outlasting the visiting Dutchmen 28-7 in the Class A semifinals. The Garnets will face defending champion Somers in the title game after the Tuskers defeated Ossining 52-14 in the other semifinal.
“It feels great; it’s good to be back in the championship after a couple of years off,” Rye star quarterback Andrew Livingston said. “We’re just really good at staying consistent and keeping a good state of mind. Tappan Zee is a great team, we knew they were going to be tough, but we just went out there and played Garnet football.”
Livingston was again impressive for Rye, completing 14 of 22 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns. The Garnets led 21-7 at the half behind Livingston, who was 13 for 20 for 160 yards and two touchdowns. Rye broke it open on Livingston’s 76-yard touchdown pass to DeGraw on the Garnets’ second play of the second half.
“(DeGraw) has been there all year; he’s been there since third grade for me,” Livingston said. “He’s a good outlet. We’ve got great receivers, great depth and we’ve just been on track the whole season.”
DeGraw also put up a big performance for Rye, posting 163 yards and two touchdowns on six receptions. Chris Santangelo had five receptions on 38 carries, all in the first half and running back Shane O’Malley had 94 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Chase Pratt added an 11-yard touchdown reception.
The Rye defense was also strong in the victory, with Alex Raynor putting up a big performance. Raynor had an interception on Tappan Zee’s first drive of the game, a fumble recovery and also had two big pass breakups on Dutchmen drives in the second half.
Paul Staudinger also had a key interception inside their own 20-yard line for Rye and Laz Chavez added a sack.
“Raynor has been there all year for us,” DeGraw said. “The whole defense is there. Our defense is just as good as our offense in our eyes.”
Tappan Zee was without starting quarterback/running back/linebacker Thomas Morales and his absence had a big effect on the Dutchmen. Morales was Tappan Zee’s second option behind star Giuseppe Maddalena, with Dutchmen coach Andy DiDomenico calling him the “glue” of the team.
“(Livingston) and (DeGraw) are the best two players we’ve seen all year and I give (Rye) all the credit in the world,” DiDomenico said. “I’m not going to put everything on losing a kid like Tommy, we ask kids to step up, but Tommy called our defense, he called our offense and he was a steady influence for us on and off the field. It hurts, but it’s football.”
Maddalena did his best to pace Tappan Zee in the loss, rushing for 74 yards on 22 carries and going 2-for-7 passing for 48 yards, including a 40-yard touchdown pass to Ryan McWilliams. Liam Donohue stepped in well for Morales, rushing for 39 yards on eight carries. Maddalena also had a sack on defense and Paul Holder added a sack of his own.
“(Rye) is a great team; they have great coaching and great players,” Maddalena said. “We have a lot of respect for those guys, we gave it our best… It was an unbelievable year. It was the first time we made it to the playoffs, I was really happy with how everything went for us this year. Tappan Zee never gives up. I can’t wait to see what our guys have in store for next year.”
Rye will face the defending champion Somers Tuskers in the Class A championship game. The Garnets beat the Tuskers in the second week of the season, but Rye is taking nothing for granted in the rubber match.
“Somers has one of the best coaches in the nation and is such a good program,” Livingston said. “They have a solid team; we’re just going in there expecting a dogfight and a close game.”