Last year, Rye Country Day (Rye, NY) invited St. Luke's to its homecoming weekend, then handed the Storm its only loss of the season. In fact, it was Rye's 9th consecutive win over St. Luke's. So it was an emotional game for the Storm on Saturday when Rye was St. Luke's homecoming game opponent. The Rye Wildcats were successful putting a scare into the Storm by keeping the game close, but for the first time in a decade, St. Luke's emerged victorious, 26-20.
On the game's first possession, the Storm marched from its own 42, on the strength of rushing by Noel Thomas and Myles Gaines, but it was QB Charlie Nelson who capped the drive with a 20-yard scramble into the end zone. Peter Baritz added the PAT for a 7-0 lead.
On its next possession the Storm moved down to the red zone on a Nelson pass to the nine where Sam Drews made a spectacular comeback catch on an underthrown ball. Two plays later, Gaines swept left for the score and a 14-0 lead.
Rye answered with a pair of their own touchdowns, the first on a 35 yard bomb to a coverage-blown wide open receiver and the second on a fumble recovery at the 50 that was scooped up on the bounce and delivered to the end zone by the Wildcats. The first PAT failed when Ron Holland, the Storm's talented interior lineman, blocked a kick attempt and the Storm later stonewalled a two point conversion run.
Neither team could score again until with a minute left in the half, St. Luke's stopped a Wildcat 4th and goal attempt at its own 8, then executed a flawless two-minute drill that included a finger tip reception by Thomas to get across midfield. As the clock expired Nelson fired a 36 yard strike to Blake Stroman who out leapt all defenders in the end zone to stretch St. Luke's lead to 20-12.
Rye answered with a TD drive to open the second half that effectively mixed option plays, off tackle blasts and passes into the short flat. A two point conversion pass knotted the score at 20.
Thomas stopped a Rye drive with an interception at the Wildcat 20 which he returned 20 yards. Shortly thereafter, Nelson was sidelined by an injury and Thomas ran the offense, mostly from the shotgun. But that drive ended with an interception by Rye on its own 17. On St. Luke's next procession Thomas guided the Storm downfield mixing QB sweeps left and right and handoffs to Gaines. An apparent TD pass, was called back after officials declared that Thomas was beyond the line of scrimmage when he released to Stroman. No matter, on the next play Thomas rushed in for a 26-20 lead.
On the ensuing kickoff to Rye, Storm junior Paul Freeman laid a hit on the return man that could be heard by the entire, sold out crowd estimated at 1,000. Andrew Sudano was St. Luke's leading tackler with 9. Latarocca had a drive-stopping interception in addition to 4 tackles. Nelson was 6 for 8 in passing for 127 yards.
St. Luke's has the week off and returns to action at 6 pm on October 27 at The Pennington School just north of Trenton, NJ.