Eric Corcoran broke loose for a 59-yard touchdown run that pulled Pearl River within one point of Rye in Saturday's opener for both teams at Pearl River.
The Pirates made a defensive stand deep in their own end later in the quarter to keep the momentum and stay within one.
Rye responded with two fourth-quarter touchdowns, wearing down Pearl River on the way to a 28-13 victory.
"This is huge," Rye Head Coach Dino Garr said. "It was important for us to get our legs under us. This is a good team. Pearl River was in the playoffs last year and they played us tough today. It was very important for us to hang in there when things went bad and then come back and wrap it up the way we did."
"We had the momentum our way, but we couldn't capitalize on some reads we had," Pearl River Head Coach Jeff Michael said. "We dropped some passes. We let up on our blocking at points. That's the negative point about a younger team. You've got to finish the play. They learned that lesson the hard way today. You've got to finish the play and that will help you finish the game.
Rye looked like it might finish the game early, jumping out to a 14-0 lead. The Garnets marched 67 yards for a score on their first drive of the game, including passes of 21 and 20 yards from sophomore quarterback Andrew Livingston to Chris Santangelo. Livingston scored from three yards out on a keeper around the right side to give Rye a 7-0 lead.
Livingston completed seven of 12 passes for 104 yards and two touchdowns in the contest.
"Very, very mature," Michael said of Livingston. "I'm very impressed. He made great reads today in the pocket. He made the timely play."
Two of those came on Rye's second touchdown drive. He converted a third down with a four-yard run on a keeper, then hit running back Conor Murphy in stride on a wheel route for a 31-yard touchdown.
"It was something we worked on all week and we knew it would be open," Livingston said. "We just had to be calm and execute our game plan."
They did that until junior linebacker Kevin Considine made a game-changing play, deflecting an option pitch by Livingston and recovering the fumble at Rye's two-yard-line in the second quarter. Another junior, running back Rob Gullo, plunged in from a yard out for the touchdown to cut Rye's lead to 14-7.
"Kevin Considine made a terrific play to force a fumble," Michael said. "It was an option play. Considine read it and put himself right in the pitch lane. He played the quarterback, stuck that big paw of his out and knocked the ball down. He was upset with himself that he didn't scoop and score, but I said that would have been perfection and he set us up. He made a great play on that option read."
Late in the first quarter, Considine had stopped a Rye drive by sacking Livingston on third down. He added a second sack on the Garnets' first drive of the second half.
"Without question our defensive player of the game," Michael said.
Junior defensive lineman Bryan Kondracki made another third-down stop on Livingston to give Pearl River a chance to score before halftime. Pirates' quarterback Chris Van Houten got his team close with a 12-yard run and a 10-yard pass to Patrick Gannon, but he was sacked on third down and Ronan Curry pushed his 40-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds wide right.
The Pirates managed only two first downs and 49 total yards in the first half. Van Houten threw for 12 yards, his total for the game. The Pirates' offense finished with 107 total yards in the game.
"He's frustrated with himself, not his teammates," Michael said of Van Houten. "He felt like he hurried a few of his passes and didn't let plays develop. That's his youth showing there."
"Our defense was super all day," Garr said. "They had one long run that we missed some tackles, but other than that, I thought we played super."
Corcoran came up with that long run for Pearl River with 5:34 remaining in the third quarter. He seemed to be bottled up, then broke free down the left sideline for the 59-yard score. He finished the game with 82 yards. A missed extra point left the Pirates down one, but back in the game.
"I was very proud of them, especially with a young team," Michael said of his team's comeback. "You think if you fall down 14-0, you start with finger-pointing and blaming each other. We saw zero of that today. (After Considine's fumble recovery) we punched it in and you could see the momentum kick in. Eric Corcoran has a 59-yard run and we're right back in the game. Down 14-0, it would have been easy to hang our heads and start crying against a team like Rye, but we didn't."
Rye tried to respond, driving as far as Pearl River's three on the next possession, but the Pirates stopped sophomore Tim DeGraw at the two on fourth down.
"You've got to close," Livingston said. "We missed it. We can't do that. We did a good job of getting our momentum back and finishing."
Rye finished in the fourth quarter, starting with a 37 yard drive after Curry had to punt from deep in his own end zone. Two facemask penalties helped the Garnets get close and Livingston found DeGraw in the end zone on third and goal from the five to push Rye's advantage up to 21-13.
"That was huge," Livingston said. "You want to give yourself space. You don't feel comfortable up one."
"We started getting tired and cramped in the fourth quarter and couldn't finish," Michael said. "You could tell. I was all ball control. They wanted to keep our offense off the field and they did a great job of it."
Rye squelched Pearl River's next drive with consecutive sacks of Van Houten by Shane O'Malley and Andrew Aquilino. O'Malley then put the game away with a 44-yard run to the Pirates' one, scoring from there two plays later.
Rye finished with 187 yards rushing, including 82 from O'Malley, 52 by Murphy and 47 by Jimmy Dugan. Murphy left the game early with an ankle injury. Garr said he was not certain how bad it was.
"Offensively, we did some things that show we can be a good football team," Garr said. "We kind of pounded it out there at the end."
Pearl River missed on its chance to avenge last year's playoff loss to Rye.
"We had a second chance and we couldn't take advantage," Michael said.
Pearl River's next game is 1:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15 at Yonkers.