After Saturday night’s Class A championship game, I had little time to do a few quick interviews and rush off to file my story before deadline. I used that time to focus on Somers, the champ, and rightfully so after ended Rye’s undefeated season 20-7.
That meant I didn’t have time to catch up with Rye coach Dino Garr. I talked to Garr Sunday, and here are a few of his thoughts on the game:
To start, the rigorous schedule of the final weeks ultimately caught up to the Garnets. It began in Week 6 when they beat 5-0 Sleepy Hollow and only continued in the subsequent weeks. Rye played a physical game against rival Harrison that proved the most costly. It then followed with tough playoff matchups with Yorktown, Tappan Zee and eventually Somers, the last of which was not only Rye’s best opponent all season but simply too good to overcome.
“We were really beat up,” Garr said. “It was attrition.”
By the end of the Somers game, Rye had seen its lineup gutted: tackle Will Oberlander (suspension); running back/linebacker Conor Murphy (knee/calf); two-way lineman Roger Paganelli (knee); and Chris Santangelo (ankle), a safety, had stopped playing defense. Although the game was essentially over, linebacker Carlos Merlos suffered a gruesome dislocated ankle with less than two minutes to play and had to be carted off in an ambulance (pictured above). Starting guard Gianpierre Espino only played the game because he had to. The offensive line was thin ever since it lost two starters during the preseason.
The biggest loss was Murphy, who split carries with Shane O’Malley (O’Malley had a career-high 36 Saturday, including 23 in the first half) and was a major key at inside linebacker. His career ended in almost heroic fashion. After suffering a knee injury at some point during the 8-2 win against Harrison, Murphy tore the calf muscle on his other leg in the final minutes. When exactly? The play before his game-winning touchdown run.
“Pretty good way to go out,” he told me Saturday.
“When we lost Murphy in that game, that was big,” Garr said. ” It was one of those injuries you didn’t know what had happened until the game was over. He was our leading rusher, but it really hurt us on defense.”
Somers, of course, had won seven straight since its 20-13 loss to Rye on Sept. 15 and had clearly improved to the point it could’ve won no matter what condition the Garnets were in. Still, Rye had itself within a touchdown as the clock neared four minutes when a key played changed the game in more ways than one.
On fourth-and-goal from the 5, Garr called for what appeared to be a reverse to wide receiver Tim DeGraw. The play went for a first-down run earlier in the game, but Garr told me it was actually a reverse pass that gave DeGraw an option to throw. Of course, he ran it and was stopped at the 1 by Tim Fazzinga and Johnny Chrysogelos, who forced a fumble and then recovered it in the end zone for a touchback.
Had Rye been stopped at the 1, Somers would’ve been backed up to its end zone and in jeopardy of being tackled for a safety that could’ve led to Rye winning in regulation. At the very least, the Tuskers would’ve had limited options offensively. Instead, they got the ball at the 20 and burned nearly all of the last four minutes before punching in a final touchdown.
“The fact that we didn’t score was painful, but we would’ve felt OK,” Garr said. “Instead, it ended up being the worst-case scenario.”
Garr also said he would’ve likely tried for a two-point play if Rye scored on that drive. His team had barely made an extra point on its first touchdown and had a field goal blocked to end the first half.
“We probably would’ve gone for 2,” he said. “We had an extra point we barely made. We had a field goal blocked. We probably would’ve gone for the win.”
Earlier in the game, Rye’s offense had sputtered, particularly in the first half. Somers recorded three sacks and Garr opted to run the ball rather than rely on Andrew Livingston, the section’s leading passer, who only attempted seven passes, many under duress, in the first half before going 8 for 13 for 168 yards and a touchdown in the second.
Again, the injuries played a part in that decision, Garr said.
“We were really trying to hold up with straight-ahead stuff,” he said. “We didn’t want to have to do too much shifting with the line. It was tough for us, but that’s not an excuse. We really wanted to establish the running game.”