HARRISON According to just about anyone in the know, Rye entered Saturday’s annual clash with Harrison as a heavy favorite. But even if the facts supported that theory, it lied in direct contrast to the rivalry’s history of the unexpected.
“We’ve played a lot of great teams, but there’s nothing like Rye-Harrison,” Rye senior Chase Pratt said after playing in his fourth straight. “You can try to explain it to the younger kids, but there’s no way unless you play in it. It’s always the toughest game you’ll ever play in in your life.”
The Garnets young and old found that out quickly on Saturday. Rye, the top-ranked team in Class A, withstood Harrison’s emotional push to pitch a second half shutout and win the 85th edition of the rivalry 28-14 at McGillicuddy Stadium.
“That’s what the rivalry is,” said Rye coach Dino Garr, whose team has won 12 of the last 13 vs. Harrison and narrowed the all-time deficit to 42-40-3. “I praise their coaching staff and players for coming hard.”
Harrison rode its early momentum to score on its opening possession. Jack Witte caught a short pass from Michael Nannariello, broke a tackle and skirted into the end zone to give the Huskies a 7-0 lead.
The Garnets (6-0) responded with a pair of rushing touchdowns in the second quarter, but Harrison tied the score 14-14. The defense, led by Robert Palmieri and Robert Donohue, stopped a promising Rye possession in the final seconds of the half.
The Garnets benefitted from three forced turnovers, but none proved bigger than the fumble forced by Will Gladstone early in the third quarter. Soon after, Pratt rushed for a 31-yard touchdown and the defense followed with a fierce second half, allowing just 25 yards.
Section 1 won’t announce its seeds for next week’s Class A play-in round until Sunday, but Harrison (3-3), which, based on its presesaon ranking, won’t be seeded any higher than No. 14, said it would welcome a rematch. Rye will be the No. 1 seed.
“We’re keeping our fingers crossed that, based on the math — whatever that is — that we get another chance to play them,” Huskies coach Dom Zanot said.
Player of the game: Chase Pratt, Rye. No one player was responsible for beating Harrison, but Pratt’ left his fingerprints in several key areas. He rushed for a team-high 87 yards, including the winning 31-yard touchdown in the third quarter. He also recovered a key fumble with the score tied in the third quarter and was a central figure in the defense pitching a second-half shutout.
Turning point: Still in his own territory and stuck in a tied game, Rye coach Dino Garr showed confidence in his offense, trying for a fourth down on the opening possession of the third quarter. His offense was stuffed for a loss, giving Harrison momentum and a short field. Instead of folding, the defense immediately delivered. Defensive end Will Gladstone stripped Harrison quarterback Michael Nannariello on the next play and Pratt recovered the fumble. Five plays later, Pratt scored the go-ahead touchdown.
“Will Gladstone has been an unsung hero all year, and that was the play of the game in my book,” Pratt said. “They were right there in good scoring position, but he got us the ball back immediately.”
Stat line: Rye outgained Harrison 382-166 and the defense limited the Huskies to just 46 yards on the ground and forced three turnovers. … Rye’s T.J. Lavelle and Harrison’s Nannariello finished with identical lines: 9 for 20 for 120 yards passing. Nannariello threw a touchdown to Jack Witte and each quarterback rushed for a score as well. … Brett Egan led the Garnets with 121 yards of offense, including a 36-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Jamie Chabot got Rye on the board with a 21-yard TD run in the second quarter and finished with 15 carries for 82 yards rushing.
Quotable: “You have to give them a lot of credit,” Gladstone said. “Everyone said we were the best team, but they’re a hell of a team. They come with a lot of force. They do everything right, and they really brought it to us today. I think we got caught up a little bit in the emotion. Once we settled down and once we had our halftime meeting with coach Garr, he set everything straight. That was the big difference.”