HARRISON, N.Y. - Rye came out in the second half against archrival Harrison and went back to old-time football.
Utilizing its sizeable offensive line, fullback Joe Simolacaj carried the ball between the tackles, chewing up a minimum of four yards on a carry. Simolacaj and his offensive line would grind it out and lead Rye to a 17-7 victory over Harrison in the 81st annual renewal of "The Game," before a crowd estimated at more than 2,500 at McGillicuddy Stadium, marking the first time the much-awaited annual showdown was played on Harrison High School's campus.
Rye won for the ninth consecutive time in the storied rivalry. The Garnets also won their third game in-a-row, evening their record at 3-3. Harrison, which leads the series, 41-37-3, dropped to 3-3.
Rye will host Lakeland in its regular-season finale, Friday, 7 p.m. Harrison travels to Horace Greeley, Ssturday, 2 p.m. Both teams need a victory so secure a berth in the Section 1 Class A Championships.
Simolacaj carried a career-high 34 times for 126 hard-earned yards and halfback Jake Meyerson finished with 14 carries for 104 yards.
Following the post-game handshake, the Rye players ran over to their stands where they were greeted by a jubilant Rye student body.
"We noticed they were doing something a little different defensively in the first half," said Simolacaj, who also had a huge stop on fourth down. "We made the adjustment at halftime and it worked perfectly.
"They were shading a lot to the strong side so our linemen were making the call before the snap as to who they were going to block. Together, we all won the game, but the offensive line did a great job and started off the plays."
Simolacaj had 27 carries for 110 yards in the second half and set up the eventual decisive touchdown.
The teams were locked in a defensive struggle in the third quarter when the Garnets made the play of the game. On fourth-and-1 from its' 44-yard-line, Harrison went for it, but the Garnets swarmed Harrison quarterback Vinnie Nicita. The officials did not need to measure as Harrison came up a half yard short.
"I was not surprised they went for it because we would have done the same thing," Meyerson said. "We knew they would go with the quarterback sneak, so our coaches told us to jam the middle. Everyone pinched down and Joe was the first one on the ball. Then we gang-tackled and sealed the deal.
"Coach (Dino Garr) says one play can make the difference in a game and football is a game of inches. That was a matter of inches and it was the turning point."
Rye, behind seven straight Simolacaj rushes, moved from the Harrison 44 to the Huskies' 11. On third-and-five, quarterback Andrew Livingston rolled right and found Dylan Lynch at the goal line and he fell in for the score with 8:27 remaining in the game. Meyerson's extra point made the score, 14-7.
Rye'e defense was at it on the ensuing Harrison possession as Meyerson intercepted Nicita at midfield, and returned it13 yards. Five straight Simolacaj carries brought the ball to the Harrison 17. Meyerson kicked a 35-yard field goal with 4:15 on the clock.
"That's how Joe was in our first game against Somers," said Meyerson of his classmate and backfield partner. "Joe did everything we asked of him. The offensive line was giving him three, four yards and Joe was running over guys."
The teams traded touchdowns in the second quarter on consecutive possessions. Livingston found Lynch for a 3-yard touchdown pass and Harrison answered with Jake Marino 19-yard score on an option play.
Simolacaj will not mind the post-game soreness, Sunday.
"It will be the best sore feeling of my life, knowing that in my senior year, we beat Harrison again," Simolacaj said.
Rye 0 7 0 10 -- 17Harrison 0 7 0 0 -- 7Rye -- Dylan Lynch 3 pass from Andrew Livingston (Jake Meyerson kick).Harrison -- Jake Marino 19 run (Roberto Bruno kick).Rye -- Lynch 11 pass from Livingston (Meyerson kick).Rye -- Meyerson 35 field goal.
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