Rye’s top sport stories of 2013

Famed Rye coach John Nugent died this year at the age of 91. Nugent’s legacy will live on at Rye High School, thanks in part to the football field named after him in 1982. Contributed photo

Famed Rye coach John Nugent died this year at the age of 91. Nugent’s legacy will live on at Rye High School, thanks in part to the football field named after him in 1982. Contributed photo

Harrison battles Rye in “The Game”
The annual meeting between the two rivals, known as “The Game”, has inspired such passion and rivalry in both fan bases that it makes it impossible to leave off any year’s best list when it comes to Harrison athletics.

Coming into this year’s match up, people speculated in the days leading up to the game about if the game held the same attraction in 2013. Rye had already clinched a top playoff spot, the banged-up Huskies had been eliminated from contention and there were some who wondered if Rye would even play the majority of its starters.

Then the game started.

The Huskies and Garnets battled for 48 minutes in a physical, heated contest that showed just what the vaunted Huskies defense was capable of when firing on all cylinders.

The Huskies introduced a wildcat package that was able to move the ball against the Garnets, but neither team was able to put points on the board until Harrison’s Jake Marino sacked Rye’s Andrew Livingston in the end zone for a safety in the fourth quarter.

Rye Neck’s Matt Garcia charges ahead for a touchdown at the Syracuse Carrier Dome on Dec. 1. The Rye Neck Panther’s incredible season led to a berth in the state title game. Photo/Mike Smith

Rye Neck’s Matt Garcia charges ahead for a touchdown at the Syracuse Carrier Dome on Dec. 1. The Rye Neck Panther’s incredible season led to a berth in the state title game. Photo/Mike Smith

Unfortunately for Harrison fans, the Garnets would roar back with an 11-play, 82-yard scoring drive capped off by a Conor Murphy touchdown run and held on to win the ballgame 8-2. Rye’s victory came at a price as the already injury-plagued Garnets ended up losing Murphy for the year with a high-ankle sprain.

“This is the Harrison-Rye game, this is so important to the community,” Livingston said after the game. “They are a great ball club. We knew they were going to come out and play us tough.”

Rye loses coaching icon
On June 26, the Rye community bid farewell to one of the most storied football coaches in the town’s history as John J. Nugent passed away in Tuscon, Ariz.

Nugent, 91, was a part of the Rye School District for 32 years, serving as a teacher, coach and, later, as the Rye Athletic Director.

After Nugent retired from the school district in 1982, the stadium at Rye High School was re-named in his honor. Nugent was responsible for the hiring of current head coach Dino Garr, who has stamped his own legacy on the Garnet program.

“He was an outstanding person, so committed,” Garr said in June. “He loved football so much and that just made the players love the game as well.”

Garnet historian Steve Feeney said Nugent’s time in Rye had a big impact, both on and off the field.

“As you might expect, [Nugent’s passing] ran the gamut of emotions,” Feeney said. “Some people were in tears, others raised a pint in his honor. He had a wonderful family. He had a wonderful time in Rye, and he was great for the community.”

Livingston earns top honors
After a tremendous 2013 campaign and a berth in the Section I championship game, Garnet quarterback Andrew Livingston was named the Westchester/Putnam Player of the Year.

With 25 touchdowns and 2,095 passing yards on the year, the junior quarterback gave Rye the most prolific passing attack in the section with receivers like Jay Little and Chris Santangelo in the mix. Livingston’s favorite target, however, was Tim DeGraw, who caught 41 passes for nine touchdowns and 1,051 receiving yards—a new Section I record.

Though the Garnets fell short in their bid for a Section I title, expect more big things from Livingston in 2014.

Rye quarterback Andrew Livingston escapes the pocket against Somers in the Section I tournament. Livingston was named the Westchester/Putnam Football Player of the Year for his play in 2013. Photo/Bobby Begun

Rye quarterback Andrew Livingston escapes the pocket against Somers in the Section I tournament. Livingston was named the Westchester/Putnam Football Player of the Year for his play in 2013. Photo/Bobby Begun

Rye Neck reaches state finals
It was a tough road for the Black Hats, but in 2013 all the hard work finally paid off as Rye Neck found itself at the Syracuse Carrier Dome with a chance to win the school’s first-ever state title. Though the Panthers lost to Chenago Forks by the slimmest of margins, the road to Syracuse was a particularly inspiring testament to triumphing over adversity.

Led by a senior class that endured a 1-6 season early in its career, Rye Neck was by far the cream of the Class C crop this year, pitching shutout after shutout and wearing down opposing defenses with its bevy of talented running backs, including Dom Brescia, Ryan Morningstar, Pedro Cueto, Jakob Calvini and Jake Sevean. With a convincing win over Woodlands in the Class C finals, the Panthers avenged their 2012 loss to the Falcons and punched their ticket to the state tourney at Dietz Stadium, uncharted waters for the program.

Although the trip to Syracuse was bittersweet—the Panthers fell 28-27 to a physical Forks squad—there were enough silver linings, including the town’s support of the squad and the way the players rallied around each other, to make this one of the best stories of 2013.

“This is always going to sting, no doubt.” Quarterback Tom Pipolo said after the game. “But we’re going to look back on this someday fondly, because we wouldn’t have gotten here if we weren’t so close with each other.”

Contact: sports@hometwn.com

 
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About Mike Smith

Mike Smith has been with Hometown Media Group since 2007, serving as the company’s Sports Editor. Mike has been commended for his work by the New York Press Association, winning awards in 2008 for “Best Sports Feature” and again in 2009 as part of a team that put together “The Game,” a breakdown of the Harrison-Rye football rivalry, which won for “Best Special Section.” His weekly column, “Live Mike,” offers his unique insights into a broad range of topics in the sports world. He resides in Eastchester, N.Y. and spends most of his free time serving as the player-manager for a competitive men’s baseball team in New York City. Reach Mike at 914-653-1000 x22 or sports@hometwn.com; follow him on Twitter @LiveMike_Sports.