Martha’s Vineyard bruised by Bedford in pigskin opener

Running back Joe Turney ran for a rare double digit gain against Bedford. — Photo by Ralph Stewart

The Island’s high school football season opened last Saturday with a 21-0 loss to a bigger, badder Bedford Buccaneers High School team that smashmouthed its way to a tidy win in just over two hours at nearly full Dan McCarthy Field.

The game was closer than the score indicates as the smaller, youthful Vineyarders were down 7-0 at halftime and 13-0 late in the third quarter when the Purple threatened to make the contest a one-score game again before the Bedford defense stopped two consecutive rushes inside the one-yard line. The Bucs capped the scoring with a TD late in the fourth quarter.

Earlier in the day, the Vineyarder junior varsity fell to the Buccaneers, 42-14.

Before team captains Kyle Stobie, Lochlund Chimes, Tony Canha, and Tony Breth won the coin toss, the program answered its first 2013 challenge: how to replace 2013 graduate Maggie Riseborough’s consistently remarkable delivery of the national anthem before games. The strategy was a soulful a cappella duet from senior Sophie Nelson and junior Zana van Rooyen. The stadium then became silent in memory of Joe Jerome (MVRHS, 2008) who died at age 24 last week.

As advertised, the Vineyarders were small, fast, and athletic, but their offense sputtered all day and did not record a first down in the first half. The Vineyarders committed three first-half turnovers, an interception and two fumbles, one of which led to a Bedford score. Island momentum was absent until senior quarterback Mike Mussell Jr. unveiled a crisp short passing game late in the game. Mussell was 8 for 14 for 86 yards, principally targeting senior running back Joe Turney (3 receptions for 54 yards), fullback Tony Canha, and wideout DeShawn James. Turney also had 47 rushing yards on six carries.

On defense, the Vineyarders settled in quickly, despite giving up an early second quarter touchdown on a 49-yard Bedford drive. Bending, not breaking, the defense held until another long Bedford drive in the middle of the third quarter made it 13-0. Senior linebacker Kyle Stobie was lost for the game in the second quarter with a left shoulder injury. X-rays taken Sunday were clear, Coach Donald Herman reported.

In the stands, fans were cognizant of the size disparity between the teams. “I bet our O.L. (offensive line) maybe averages 190 (pounds),” veteran fan Richard Stone said to Frank Daly, another longtime fan. Mr. Daly brings a bell which is rung only when he feels victory is in hand. The bell would not toll on Saturday.

Minutes after the final gun, Mr. Herman wasn’t buying size difference as a reason for losing. He considered the ground in front of him for a moment before answering a question about team performance. “I don’t mind the loss. Losing the game doesn’t bother me. The lack of effort is what bothers me. It can’t be just a few players attacking the ball. Everyone on the team, I don’t care whether you’re a senior or a sophomore, you have an obligation to commit yourself on every play,” he said.

Defensive standouts were pretty easy to spot: the same three or four names were called by announcer Ken Goldberg all day. Stobie was one. Defender Tony Canha’s name was called on five consecutive plays in the second half, one forcing a Bucs’ punt. Senior Lochlund Chimes showed up and sophomores Austin Chandler and Isaac Higgins heard their names several times. Chandler made two consecutive tackles for minimal gain in the first half as the defense found its legs early.

Offensively, the game was decided on running plays between the tackles. Bedford was successful; the Vineyarders were not. Bedford senior mega-backs Olin Abner and Robert McDonald sledgehammered the Vineyard D-line on alternate plays, keeping the chains and the clock moving.

Fans are hoping to hear Mr. Daly’s bell knell next Saturday when the Vineyarders host the Brighton Bengals at 1 pm.