After two games on the road, the MVRHS football team returned to Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs on Friday night to take on the Cape Tech Crusaders and pick up a second win this season. Unfortunately, it was not to be. The Vineyarders (1-6) couldn’t stop Crusaders quarterback Zach Higgins, who scored two touchdowns by land and another by air, or running back Acher Estinvil, in a 28-19 Cape Tech win.
The night began with a pregame ceremony in which Vineyard fans, first responders, alumni, family, and friends paid tribute to former player and coach Neil Estrella, who died last Wednesday morning after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer.
The Crusaders jumped out to a 12-0 lead on a five-yard Higgins run and a 29-yard pass to Trever Castillias before Vineyard quarterback Ivan Shepherd capped off a 5:48, 53-yard drive with a half-yard plunge to make it 12-6 midway through the second quarter.
Tech needed just three plays to answer with another TD. One of those plays was a 58-yard Estinvil run down the left sideline to the Vineyard four. The Crusaders tacked on a two-point conversion for a 20-6 lead.
The Vineyarders got a big break following a bad snap on a Crusader punt, and recovered the ball at the Cape Tech 29 with 2:14 left in the half. The short drive ended with Shepherd firing an 18-yard strike between the 2 and 6 on Tristan Scheller’s jersey at the back of the end zone. Josue Santos then split the uprights with the point after, cutting Tech’s lead to 20-13. Reinaldo dos Santos followed with a perfect onside kick, recovered by Zach Smith, and the Vineyarders had the ball on the Crusaders 47-yard line. Shepherd began the series by completing a seven-yard screen pass to Jayden Coyle, but his next attempt was intercepted. The Crusaders turned the ball over in kind as Braden Sayles leaped to pick off a 30-yard Higgins heave on the right sideline, and the scored remained 20-13 at halftime.
Cape Tech started the second half with a marathon 65-yard drive, chewing up 9:12 of the third quarter. Estinvil ended the drive with an eight-yard run and a dive over the goal line for a 26-13 lead.
The Crusaders added a deuce by blocking Ivan Shepherd’s punt for a safety early in the fourth quarter. The Vineyarders responded with a 77-yard drive and another Shepherd-to-Scheller TD pass, but a high snap on the extra-point attempt effectively ended the night for the hosts.
Shepherd finished eight of 24 for 92 yards passing with 71 yards rushing on 12 carries. Scheller had 25 yards on six carries, to go with five catches for 54 yards. On defense, Andres Garcia and Michael Courtney led the way with 13 tackles apiece, while Ivan Shepherd had 11 and Jason Davey added seven plus a fumble recovery.
After the game, Vineyard Coach Donald Herman had a distinct sense of déjà vu with a team that shows promise in practice but fails to put the pieces together during games. “‘Groundhog Day,’” he said, alluding to the famous film. “We had a good week of practice. We feel like the kids were prepared. We feel like we know what we’re doing, organized, executing, and, yet out here, it’s like a different team. I say ‘Groundhog Day’ because it’s been week after week after week. But we’re not quitting, we’re not quitters. We’re going to keep fighting, keep plugging, keep working. Obviously, we can get better. The bottom line is it’s very evident that we are physically outmatched week in and week out. There’s nothing we can do about that right now. We just have to keep working. It is something we can control for next year. Right now, I’m kind of numb, I’m at a loss, and it’s not like I haven’t had seasons like this before. I have. But you want to see improvement, and I’m not seeing that and that’s the concerning part.”
The MIAA will decide on the next Vineyard opponent on Sunday afternoon following the weekend’s results, a process to be repeated over the next three weeks. “We’re going back on Sunday,” Coach Herman said. “We’re going to work hard, practice, and prepare for our next opponent, whomever that may be.”