Stunning is the only way to describe Poughkeepsie’s incredible, last second 25-20 victory over Rye’s football team at Nugent Stadium in the Class A Section Semifinals Friday, October 30.
The Garnets, as well as every one of their supporters in attendance, had the wind knocked out of them when — on 4th and 10 from the 50-yard line — senior wideout Josh Graham reeled in a Jarrid Williams pass on the left sideline and raced to the end zone for a game-winning touchdown as time expired.
It was Graham’s third devastating play against Rye on a 4th down in the final quarter, which Rye entered up 20-7 (a lead they held until the Pioneers made it 20-13 with 3:30 left in the game). Poughkeepsie cut the score to 20-19 with two minutes remaining on a nine-play drive in which Williams completed just one of seven passes. The lone completion came on 4th and 10 from their own 34-yard line, and was good for 29 yards on a Williams to Graham heave. Rye then forced another 4th down, and caused another errant pass. A controversial call was made however. The referees said Rye interfered (the Garnets’ third pass interference call of the quarter) with Graham, who ran the same sideline route as the previous 4th down. That gave the Pioneers a 1st down at the Garnet 23, and Graham promptly ran in a 23-yard touchdown on a keeper play.
Poughkeepsie decided to go for two instead of a game-tying extra point. Rye senior captain Brendan Nagle hit Williams as he was throwing, which caused the ball to fall harmlessly to the turf. That play — along with Rye’s onside recovery on the ensuing kick — led most in attendance to believe the Garnets would move on to the Section championship in Mahopac next weekend.
The Pioneers had other ideas.
They stuffed Rye on three straight downs, and put the Garnets in a 4th and 5 situation from Poughkeepsie’s 45. Opting not to punt, Rye instead put the ball in the hands of junior quarterback Connor Eck. Eck rolled to his right, but was sacked for a loss of five and the Pioneers took over with 21 seconds remaining.
On 1st and 10, Williams once again heaved it down the left sideline to Graham, but the pass fell incomplete. Another pair of incomplete passes set up 4th and 10 with eight seconds remaining. Using his blinding, 4.39 40-yard dash speed, Graham flew down the sideline, caught the ball roughly 20 yards out, and sped past defenders to pay dirt. It was one of the most otherworldly comebacks — whether pro or amateur — these eyes have ever seen.
In the wake of Poughkeepsie’s incredible victory, a feeling of total shock was palpable. We saw it, but we didn’t believe it. Nugent was filled with a sea of stunned faces who had just witnessed one of the most gut-wrenching losses imaginable.
Your heart has to go out to these Garnets — especially the seniors. Rye controlled Poughkeepsie for most of the game, and led 17-0 at the half thanks in part to one of Cole McCormack’s finest performances. The senior captain gashed the Pioneer defense and finished with 31 totes for 159 yards.
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In the good news department, both the field hockey and boys’ soccer teams advanced in their respective Section tournaments with big wins at home earlier in the day at Nugent Stadium. Volleyball also won in straight sets on the road against favored Edgemont. More on these games to come …