Sleep didn’t come easy for Cole McCormack in the week leading up to the 79th installment of the Rye-Harrison game. The senior captain tossed and turned each night in anticipation of a contest he’d been waiting for his entire life.
If slumber is still a difficulty for McCormack and his Garnets teammates, they can try counting Rye’s consecutive victories over the Huskies, which now add up to seven after the Garnets soundly defeated their rivals 21-7 in front of roughly 5,000 spectators October 17 at Feeley Field.
“I can’t even put this into words,” said a joyous McCormack. “I moved here when I was little and went to all the games and pep rallies. I looked up to the guys and wanted to beat Harrison my senior year. Honestly, this is what you dream about.”
McCormack was the focal point of a Rye offense that succeeded in bludgeoning a smaller Harrison unit. The running back rushed 25 times for nearly 160 yards and three touchdowns, two of which came in a decisive third quarter where the Garnets stretched the lead to 21-0. He was quick to extol the superior play of his dominant offensive line, which includes tackles Charlie Rollins and Anthony Vitiello, guards David Shaughnessy and Brian Levinson, and center Brian Powers. McCormack choked up when he spoke proudly of Powers and Vitiello, a junior, and the surge the line provided all day.
The Huskies began the game by driving the ball to their 45 before disaster struck. Brendan Nagle and Matt McReddie stormed the backfield and sacked Harrison quarterback Daniel Formisano on third and eight. After the punt, Rye then took over on the 21 and converted their own third down on a scramble by junior quarterback Connor Eck. On the next play, Eck handed off to McCormack, who raced 48 yards down the sideline to Harrison’s 18. McCormack got the ball again two plays later, and bashed his way through the Huskies for a 14-yard touchdown run.
It looked as if the Garnets would run away from Harrison early, but the score remained 7-0 going into halftime. Although Rye’s offense sputtered, the defense sparkled. Rollins, a senior captain who was awarded the Christopher Mello Award prior to the game, sacked Formisano on the Huskies’ first offensive play after the McCormack TD. McReddie recorded another sack, and junior Brian Pickup also sacked Formisano on third and nine with seven seconds left in the half. Harrison missed a 41-yard field goal wide left late in the first quarter.
Junior Jack O’Callaghan jump-started Rye’s offense on the opening play of the second half when he returned the kickoff from his own endzone to Harrison’s 20-yard line. It didn’t take long for the Garnets to capitalize on the standout special teams play. McCormack scored three plays later on an untouched eight-yard dash to paydirt. The Rye defense forced the Huskies to go three-and-out on the subsequent possession, and the offense then marched to the endzone in eight plays, capped by a five-yard McCormack touchdown run.
Harrison finally got on the board with 8:25 left in the game, but failed to legally recover the ensuing onsides kick. They never got the ball back. Rye milked the clocked down in 13 plays, and took a knee on the 14th to make it official.
“We feel great right now,” said Nagle, a senior captain who acted as a battering ram all day from the fullback position. “It was a tight game, but we came out and played our hearts out. A few big plays made the difference.”
After the resounding win in Harrison, the Garnets returned to Rye High School for the celebratory dip in the brook. Cheerleaders and former Garnets joined the football heroes in the chilly water, as did Rye Police Detective John Wood, who teaches D.A.R.E. in the district. Detective Wood later said that when McCormack was in his fifth grade D.A.R.E. class, the future star made the detective promise he would jump in with him if they beat the Huskies.
The football team’s seventh straight win against their rival cut the Huskies’ all-time series lead to 41-35-3. Rye is one win short of tying Harrison’s series-leading eight straight victories that occurred between 1975-82. As if beating Harrison weren’t reward enough, the victory also earned the Garnets a playoff berth in the Class A Section tournament. They will play reigning Class A champs Nyack October 23 at Nugent Stadium. Rye won six straight Class B Section titles before the move up to A.