Earliest meeting since 2001 takes nothing away from the appeal of the Rye-Harrison rivalry
RYE – For all the consternation and chatter about when they would play and who would roam the sidelines (or wouldn't) when they did, Rye-Harrison faced the real test at 11 on Saturday morning.
Sure, a new, different era began in some sense in the rivalry's 84th playing. It was the earliest the teams had played since 2001 and the first edition of the rivalry played in decades without a Troilo involved. Still, the game itself, and the level of competition, proved nothing had changed — and won't any time soon.
"No, no, no," said Rye senior quarterback Andrew Livingston, a four-year starter who won for the third time, 24-13, and whose team beat Harrison for the 11th time in 12 tries. "You saw the support we got from our communities and our fan base. You look up in the first quarter and there are all those people there and it feels like Harrison — no matter what the date is and no matter who's coaching."
No one forgot that last part. Rye's public-address announcer (and team historian) Steve Feeney, "The Old Garnet," made that certain. He read a tribute to former Harrison coach Art Troilo Jr., who was forced to retire this summer after 28 seasons and who had been a central figure in the rivalry for four decades.
Troilo's unrivaled passion, his Rye-centric tunnel vision came to define the series, right or wrong, but Harrison's effort in his absence showed what Rye week still meant in the community.
"It was different — a different excitement, different emotions — but it was still Rye-Harrison," Harrison senior Drew Estes said.
On the heels of squandering a late lead last week against Panas in coach Dom Zanot's debut, the Huskies fell behind Rye 14-0 early Saturday — a game, by all accounts, they entered as an underdog. But they surged instead of sulked and continued to push, running at Rye with success, and turning a lopsided start into a competition.
Again, regardless of the teams' circumstances, Rye-Harrison is almost never a walkover.
"They're 0-2, but that's probably the best 0-2 team in the section right now," Rye coach Dino Garr said with admiration.
Despite Harrison's effort, a loss to Rye (not to mention an 0-2 start) will send them into defending champ Somers next week staring at the prospect of an 0-3 record. For a new, young coaching staff, building intensity for Rye was easy; this will be harder.
"A loss is a loss. They always hurt, and this one stings," Zanot said. "The thing about these kids is, they are a good football team, but we're 0-2. The challenge of this coaching staff is to make sure these kids practice like they're 2-0 because we are a good football team."
This time, the thin margin of error in defeat rested mostly on the arm (and, surprisingly, legs) of Livingston, who threw for 161 yards, rushed for 79 on an uncharacteristic 23 carries. He even kicked a field goal and handled punts.
"He's moving on and we're really happy about that," Zanot jokingly said.
So did Harrison, so will Rye, and so has the rivalry. No matter who is involved or when they play it, Rye-Harrison will endure.
Just consider: Garr said he never wondered about Troilo, his longtime rival, until he heard Feeney's pregame tribute.
"When I'm gone, it's not going to have anything to do with Dino not being here or any of that stuff," Garr said. "You'd like to think it's that way, but it really isn't.
"The two communities are going to come here and support their teams," he added. "You couldn't ask for two teams to play harder than they did. It was great."