No less an authority on traditional American shoot-outs than the U.S. Marine Corps chose to include the Nantucket vs. Martha’s Vineyard football game on their list of 42 Great American Rivalries. It was the only Massachusetts football game to make the list — in fact, it was the only New England game
The Island Cup game never fails to bring out an extra serving of interest and excitement on both Islands. Surely the packed stands Saturday bore witness to the continuing appeal of the tradition.
The Vineyard won the coin toss and chose to receive. David Andrews returned the kick to the MV 38 yard line. Seven plays later Randall Jette ran into the end zone for the game’s first TD. Dhonathan Lemos’s kick for the extra point split the uprights and MV led after four minutes of play having gone 62 yards in seven plays, 7-0.
Before the first quarter was over the Whalers recovered an MV fumble near midfield and embarked on a seven-play drive of their own capped by a three-yard plunge by Michael Molta. The conversion attempt failed and MV led, 7-6.
Randall Jette ran back the ensuing Whalers kick 85 yards for the home team’s second TD putting the Vineyard up, 13-6. Later in the period, after forcing a Whaler miscue, MV added another score via a four yard run by Brian Montambault, 19-6.
An on-side kick gave Nantucket good field position and eight plays later they scored their second TD. At the half the score stood at 19-12.
Early in the second half a fumble turned the ball over to the Whalers near midfield. They took full advantage with a quadruple reverse pass play that worked. The PAT was good and the score was tied at 19.
The Vineyard began the next set of downs on their own 32, After 10 plays, including a facemask penalty on the Whalers, Jette upped the ante to 25. Lemos made it 26-19.
Late in the third quarter Brian Montambault, a hard-nosed player on both offense and defense, had to retire with an injured right arm. His place was taken by sophomore Stuart Hersh.
Nantucket was far from quitting. They intercepted a Jette pass on the Vineyard 30-yard line and seven plays later scored. The John Morris scoreboard read Home 26, Guest 25. Nantucket’s choice to go for two points and the lead failed.
In the time remaining (4 minutes) the Vineyard moved the line of scrimmage from midfield to the Nantucket 7 yard line from where Jette scored the game’s final touchdown. Lemos’s kick made it 33-25.
Last year, the game was not played, much to the disappointment of players and fans on both sides of Nantucket Sound after Nantucket officials called it off due, they said, to lack of funds to pay for the rental of a ferry to carry the team and its supporters to and from the Vineyard.
The return of the longstanding football rivalry between Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket provided a dramatic background to a game that was exciting from beginning to end.
“It was a rivalry type football game, where records go out the window, nothing really matters except that one game. It’s a one game season and anything can happen and almost did,” Vineyard coach Donald Herman said following the win. “I think it was great for the rivalry for the game to be as exciting as it was. I think the fans enjoyed themselves. I would’ve liked to have seen a little different spread in points, but the bottom line was we did what we needed to do to win the ball game. With all the injuries we had, I’m very satisfied with the effort the guys gave.”
MVRHS Athletic Director Mark McCarthy agreed. “I thought it was great game,” he said. “Having the year off from the rivalry and this being the first game back, you couldn’t have asked for much better. To go down to the last possession of a football game, that’s a great game to watch. The fans were great. I think it was a good start to the rivalry again and hopefully we can keep it going in Nantucket next year. Nantucket has done a great job with their program, they’re back winning again and I think going forward, this is going to continue being a good rivalry. I’m looking forward to it.”
Since the beginning of the rivalry in 1953, Nantucket has won 35 of 63 games. The Vineyard has won 25, and three games were tied.
Since the inception of the Island Cup the score is Nantucket 17, Vineyard 15. In the Herman era the Vineyard has won 14 to Nantucket’s 8.
The Marine Corps rivalry series designation included the presentation of several awards and trophies both before and after the game. The Marines presented senior Brian Montambault with a $500 student athlete scholarship; Nantucket coach Vito Capizzo and former Vineyard quarterback Jason Dyer were named to the Great American Rivalry Series hall of fame; Vineyard quarterback Randall Jette was named game MVP; and the Marines presented coach Donald Herman and the team with the Great American Rivalry Series trophy.