One year ago, following the bitter 25-20 Island Cup defeat in Nantucket, J.D. Wild crouched at midfield, reached down, snatched up a piece of turf from the Whaler field, and held it aloft. He took it home as motivation for the next encounter, which would be his final home game in a Vineyard uniform. Every player who has ever worn the purple and white dreams of defeating Nantucket in their senior year.
Saturday, on a sunwashed fall afternoon at Dan McCarthy Field, Wild ran for two touchdowns as he and his teammates stood up to every weapon Nantucket could throw at them. A James Rebello interception and a blocked punt by Zach Mahoney set up two fourth-quarter touchdowns to break open a nail-biter as the Vineyarders reclaimed the Island Cup with a 20-7 victory.
"It's [the turf] still in my house right now," J.D. Wild said after the emotional win. "I can't tell you how much this means to me. I've seen five of my teammates crying. This is our life. We grow up as kids and look at this game. I can't even put it in words. It's unbelievable."
For Head Coach Donald Herman, the victory was sweet redemption for last year's loss.
"I feel fantastic," Coach Herman said. "This has been a year in the waiting. It's very gratifying. I can't say enough for the effort of our guys and our coaches. They make my job a lot easier."
The 10-1 Purple clinched the Mayflower Large title with a perfect 5-0 record and will start the division 6 playoffs against either East Boston or South Boston in the capital on Dec. 2. The Whalers suffered their first league defeat and finished the season at 7-3. Nantucket still holds a 17-9 advantage in the Island Cup and leads 35-19-3 overall through 50 years of the series.The game didn't come down to the final play as it had in 2002, but the 26th Island Cup was an intense, thrilling game of football, played by two excellent teams. Both sides played to their strengths--the Vineyard by land, the Whalers by air. Ultimately, Nantucket was done in by the Vineyard defense and one crucial error on special teams. The Vineyard offense, though not prolific, capitalized on golden opportunities, and by its rugged nature, wore the Whalers down.
Brad Cortez returned the opening kickoff 32 yards, but the Whaler defense rose to the challenge after giving up one first down.
Nantucket immediately showcased its vaunted passing attack, led by senior Ryan Sosebee (9 for 14, 132 yards), who was an equal threat with his feet. The swift and agile quarterback moved confidently downfield in a no-huddle offense, mixing play action passes and slants over the middle, with the occasional run. The drive established a pattern, however. Although, the Whalers were consistently dangerous and accrued good yardage, (155 in the first half), the Vineyarders eventually stopped them.After the second Purple possession went wanting, the Whalers started their next drive at the 38. Sosebee completed three passes and Nantucket closed out the 1st quarter at the M.V. 41 - good field position to be sure, but they had failed to take advantage of the strong wind at their backs.
On 3rd and 3 from the 34, Adam Goodwin ran for 20 yards. With the Whalers threatening to draw first blood, Adam Petkus stepped up and intercepted a Sosebee floater. It was the first of four Whaler turnovers and the first big swing in momentum.