Rye couldn’t have come much closer to winning a section title on Friday night, without actually winning the game. Playing in the Class A finals at Mahopac High School on Nov. 2, No. 4 seed Rye fell victim to a banner day by John Jay quarterback Bryce Ford—as well as a crunch-time turnover—that doomed the Garnets to a rain-soaked 21-14 loss.
After erasing a 21-point deficit in the first half, Rye stood on the precipice of tying the game late in the fourth quarter. With just 10 seconds on the clock and the ball on the John Jay four-yard line, Rye quarterback Declan Lavelle rolled out under pressure and flipped a desperate shovel pass towards the endzone. But Ford, who had already carried the ball 53 times for 239 yards and completed five of 14 passes, came up with yet another big play, stepping in front of the ball for his second—and final—interception of the night to seal the win for the Indians.
“It’s a difficult loss, especially when it comes down to one play where we could have won or tied the game,” Garnet coach Dino Garr told the Review. “I think John Jay is an outstanding team, they came out and made some big plays and we just happened to miss on ours.”
Garr was effusive in his praise for the Indians’ signal-caller, who picked up game MVP honors with his two-way performance.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been in a situation where a player carried the ball 53 times, but that’s what John Jay does,” Garr said. “He was involved in 95 percent of the plays they ran, and all-in-all, I think we did a pretty good job limiting his big plays.”
Early on, however, it seemed like Ford might be too much for Rye’s defense to handle. The Indians raced out to a 21-point lead, leaving Rye to play catchup in a torrential downpour that severely limited the Garnets passing game.
With running back Ryan Lopp sidelined by an injury he sustained in the Garnets’ Class A semifinal win over Clarkstown South, it was up to quarterback Declan Lavelle to spearhead the rushing attack.
He performed admirably, leading the Garnets to 14 first-half points and finishing the night with 94 rushing yards.
“[The weather] wasn’t a positive for us because we’re much more of a passing team than John Jay,” Garr said. “But to see our guys respond with the kind of heart and character that they did, it was a real pleasure.”
At 10-0, the Indians move on to the state regional final, where they will take on Section IX Cornwall on Nov. 9 at Mahopac High School.
The Garnets, finish the season at 8-2 but will return a host of playmakers—including Lavelle, who was the Section I passing leader—next year, and likely challenge for a section title again. Garr, however, is quick to point out that it was the senior leadership that set the tone for the team this year.
Citing the play of captains like Jack Iuliano and Lachlan Nelson, Garr said that the team will sorely miss this year’s senior leaders as they look ahead to the future.
“This group of seniors was really outstanding and I can’t even begin to describe the impact they have had on this program, especially for the underclassmen,” he said. “And I think the younger guys responded tremendously to them, and they will carry on that legacy next year.”