Watching the New England Patriots dismantle the Buffalo Bills Sunday night, 58-10, seemed a bit like déjà vu. Only the day before we had witnessed the Vineyard varsity score seven touchdowns and six extra points in a 48-6 thumping of traditional rival Nantucket, the worst shellacking in the 61 chapters of the inter-Island rivalry.
Then, all of a sudden, there they were! On my TV! The Vineyarders - and their coaches - at practice, on the ferry, in a bus, playing at Hull. It wasn't a long piece, just 45 seconds, but long enough to shake me out of whatever torpor the one-sided Patriots game had put me in.
The Vineyard beat Nantucket Saturday, 48-6, in the 61st meeting between the two schools and the 30th edition of the Island Cup. It was the fifth straight win for the Vineyard, which capitalized on Whaler turnovers for three touchdowns. The Vineyard still trails in the long rivalry, with 23 victories to Nantucket's 35. There have been three ties.
At the outset, maybe it was nerves, maybe it was the cold wind, maybe there was too much adrenaline, but whatever the reason neither team covered itself with glory. The Vineyard fumbled away the ball on their first possession.
Nantucket started with a penalty, an incomplete pass, and a fumble.
(For those who missed it, NBC will air another Vineyard moment at the half of this Sunday's game.)
Nantucket passed the ball 21 times in the first half. Only four were completions. Three were intercepted, by Jwann Johnson, Nick Gross, and Jeff Osborne. Later, Ben Rossi added a fourth interception.
The Vineyard righted its ship and gave the ball to Cody Brewer who smashed his way up the middle behind a surging purple line for consistent yardage. He finished the game with a team-leading 88 yards rushing. Martha's Vineyard took a 7-point lead on a nine-yard dash by Josh Paulson and a Zach Coutinho kick.
The second quarter began with a 63-yard march by the Vineyard capped by a four-yard scoring sprint by quarterback Mike McCarthy.
The very next play from scrimmage was a pass interception by Nick Gross, who dashed untouched 24 yards for the TD. Coutinho's kick made it 21-0.
When the Whalers failed to field the ensuing kickoff, Anthony Cardoza covered it on the Nantucket 24. It took four plays for Martha's Vineyard to reach the end zone again, Paulson scoring once more.
Martha's Vineyard had scored 21 points in the space of four and a half minutes.
Paulson scored his third TD after receiving a 14-yard McCarthy toss following another Nantucket fumble.
The Martha's Vineyard cheerleaders were hard pressed to keep up counting the Vineyard points with jumping jacks after each score.
Before the half-time break, Mike McCarthy added six more points on a 15-yard run followed by yet another Coutinho kick.
It was 35-0 half-way through the contest.
The second half started with the Vineyard in possession. Runs by Matt Costello, Eric Dolliver, Paulson and a pass to Mike O'Donoghue set up a 15-yard scoring run by McCarthy and another Coutinho PAT.
Coach Herman substituted freely and replaced McCarthy with Nick Billingham at quarterback.
The Vineyard's final touchdown was by Liam O'Callaghan. The point after failed when the centering pass was mishandled.
A shutout was averted when David Loveberry, a fleet-footed sophomore Whaler, broke a tackle and outran the Vineyard secondary 43 yards for the score. The PAT attempt was blocked by what appeared to be the entire Vineyard line.
The game was too one-sided to be really exciting. Maybe it will be better next year when The Game will be on Nantucket. The Whalers were big enough. Twelve of their players were 200 pounds or more. They did not lack speed, although Martha's Vineyard was quicker off the mark. But they seemed to lack the fire in the belly one expects in a Nantucket team. The prospects are not promising. The Vineyard listed 46 varsity players. Twenty-four of them are seniors who will not be available next year. But the Junior Varsity lists 35 players, all sophomores and freshmen, who will be.
Nantucket's Varsity numbered 28, including 13 seniors. They had no junior varsity team.
The Junior Highs
Nantucket did bring a junior high team, which played the Vineyard seventh and eighth graders to a standstill. There was no scoring for three of the eight-minute quarters, but in the final period Nantucket's Codie Perry broke free from midfield to reach the Martha's Vineyard nine-yard line. Three more Perry rushes resulted in the game's only score. The running try for extra points was stopped.
Nantucket brought 31 uniformed junior high cheerleaders to the fray, more than twice the Vineyard complement.