Garnets Still Looking Up to Rival Byram Hills

The crack of thunder was the only thing missing October 2 as the Garnets took on the Bobcats in Byram Hills. First, Luis Del Pezo struck like a bolt of lightning 47 seconds into the tilt with an electrifying breakaway goal that gave the Garnets an early 1-0 lead. It appeared to serve notice of a boys’ soccer team primed to exact revenge for last year’s playoff elimination.

Garnets celebrate after Luis Del Pezo goal

The ground caved in beneath the Garnets’ cleats, however, when Byram Hills scored three goals in just under seven minutes late in the first half, as questionable officiating and an opportunistic Bobcat squad eventually thwarted the previously unbeaten Garnets, 5-2.

“Ironically, the early goal may have been detrimental to our cause,” said head coach Jared Small. “We lost the edge, Byram gained it, and we didn’t play up to our potential.  We aspire to be unflappable in all situations, but without a doubt we lost our composure as an inordinate number of calls went against us despite the fact that we had possession for 75 percent of the first portion of the match.”

Greg Shaheen scored the first of three goals in the 27th minute to tie the game, and then Byram Hills capitalized on a pair of dubious calls. The Bobcats were awarded a free kick in the 31st minute that directly led to their second goal. Two minutes later, Shaheen scored on a penalty kick that left Rye’s players and coaches incredulous.

“The bottom line is that we were under-prepared and didn’t play at the level that we’ve come to expect,” said Small. “We did not deserve to win that match.”

Although clearly a setback, the Garnets have much to be proud of in this young season. Their 4-0 start earned them a No. 5 ranking in New York State Class A by the NY Sportswriters Organization, and – prior to the Byram game – they had allowed just one goal in the run of play. Small said the stat suggests his team defends well as a team, but has momentary and costly lapses when defending free kicks, corner kicks, and throw-ins.

Rye has played without senior captain Arber Xhema for the most part because of an injury, but have been buoyed by Brandon Robinson and Buck Reynolds, the other two senior captains. Robinson is a strong presence in the middle of the park, netting the second goal at Byram, and Reynolds scored four goals in Rye’s first three games. Small noted the team possesses a remarkably skilled starting 11, and benefits from collective experience on the varsity and club level. Aside from the captains, two players have really stood out for the Garnets.

“Del Pezo is a tremendously talented player who, when on his game, can be electric,” said Small. “As he continues to mature and become more consistent, he will no doubt turn heads of teammates, opponents, and fans alike. Chris Livingston continues to showcase an unparalleled touch on the ball. He has really only scratched the surface of his potential, and if we are successful as coaches Chris will be one of the most feared players in the Section.”

One week earlier, the boys’ soccer team partnered with the RHS Breast Cancer Awareness Club by wearing pink uniform shirts when they took on the Harrison Huskies under the lights. The sale of pink ribbons, t-shirts and size 4 “Cure” soccer balls raised money for Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.

On the field, the Garnets continued their winning ways with a second straight 2-1 decision over a neighborhood rival (they topped Blind Brook during the week), but not before a few scary moments and one exhilarating one.

Midway through the first half, Senior Tri-Captain Brandon Robinson drove up the right sideline and powered a 40-yard ball that sailed over the Harrison keeper and landed in the back of the net. Then, five minutes after halftime, Rye netminder James Rimmer, who played an otherwise outstanding game, misjudged a floating ball, and it fell perfectly to a Harrison forward. The Garnets barely avoided being knotted up when he hit the post.

Senior defender J.P. Barrett settled things five minutes later with a perfectly struck shot from a dead stop at the top of the box. A late Harrison goal made Barrett’s strike the game-winner.

That exhilarating moment? A formation of geese 25 birds strong swept over the Middle School and swung low over the field in their classic V formation before passing perhaps 50 feet over the stands and continuing on behind the crowd. Pretty special, Robinson and Barrett notwithstanding.

The 4-1 squad next plays October 9 at Harrison in part two of the local derby, and then October 11 at home against one of the elite Class AA team’s – undefeated Horace Greeley.


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