Harlem comes to call
The Hellfighters, a high school football team from Harlem, New York, visited the Vineyard last weekend and scrimmaged with the Vineyard varsity Saturday morning on the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School practice football field, another name for the infield of the track.
The young men from New York were houseguests of Martha's Vineyard Regional High School football players Friday night recalling, for some, the "old days" when Nantucket and Martha's Vineyard played home and home games each fall and players were housed in opponents' homes. Inter-Island friendships were formed and not a few continue to this day.
Hellfighters was the name given by the Germans to the all black 369th Infantry regiment which fought with such tenacity in World War I beside French troops at Belleau Wood and Chateau Thierry.
The high school Hellfighters were recruited from 13 Harlem high schools. Before the advent of the Hellfighters, there was no N.Y. Public School Athletic League football program in Harlem - plenty of basketball but no football.
All of the Hellfighters' games are "away" because there is no football field available at any of the Harlem high schools. The team practices on softball fields in public parks.
The recruiting of players is largely done by the team's head coach Duke Ferguson who was a wide receiver at San Diego State and later for the Seattle Seahawks and the Buffalo Bills.
No money was available for the football program in the N.Y. City school budget, but it has received financial support from the New York Jets professional football team and from the NFL's Youth Football Fund.
The team and its coach were featured in an hour-long documentary narrated by Denzel Washington on ESPN last spring.
Losing only to Lane H.S. of Brooklyn in the season opener and to Adams of Jamaica in the playoff final game, the Hellfighters compiled a 9 win, 2 loss record in '07, the same win-loss record as the Vineyard's.
In this observer's opinion, the Vineyard and the Hellfighters were pretty well matched, but the Islanders looked better coached and more ready for opening day. The most impressive player on the field was the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School quarterback Mike McCarthy, whose on-target passes were bullets. The one time I recall that he pulled the ball down to run, he dashed through the Harlem secondary and bowled over the safety.
For the most part, the Martha's Vineyard defense was effective at stopping the run, except sweeps. It seemed that half of the Harlem passes were intercepted.
Just how ready the Vineyarders are will be more apparent after the season opener at Mattapoisett versus Old Rochester Regional, Friday, Sept. 12, at 6 pm.
All Island Tennis Champs crowned
The 2008 fourth annual All Island Tennis Championships on Sunday, benefit of Hospice of Martha's Vineyard, produced some unexpected results.
In the men's singles Rough Division, Juan Mendez of Carson, Calif., defeated the number one seed, defending champion Craig Rivers, then topped Chris Smith in the finals, 7-6, 6-1.
In the consolation round, Craig Rivers of Mitchellville, Md. defeated Robert Peirce of Acton, 6-3, 6-4.
Winners of the Rough Division men's doubles were Paul Adler and Mat Porter who had played in the Professional Satellite Tour. They disposed of Adam Amster and Kevin Lewis, 6-0, 6-2.
Newcomers Gertjan Flikweert and Salter Matt of Boston defeated Douglas Cooper and Chris Smith in the consolation round, 6-2, 6-1.
Smooth Division men's doubles winners Deurward Hughes and Skip Davis outlasted Ed Levin ad Matt Levin in a tight finals match, 4-6, 6-3, 10-8.
The consolation match was another nail-biter, with Steve Goldner and William Mallory getting by Russell Hawkins and Al Lindsay, 6-0, 2-6, 11-9.
Sally Anderson and Mary Breslauer beat Shelley Amster and Liz Pierce in the Smooth Division women's doubles final match, 6-3, 0-6, 10-2.
In the women's doubles consolation match, Missy Jordan and Anne Williamson bested Victoria Dryfoos and Susan Johnson in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3.
Shelley Amster and Adam Amster were the right combination in the Rough Division mixed doubles finals defeating Susan Kimball and Arthur Stafford, 6-3, 7-6.
The rough mixed doubles consolation match was a win for Adam Bresnick and Laura Schroeder at the expense of Reggie Belgrave and Delia Squire, 6-3, 6-0.
The Smooth mixed doubles belonged to Jean Holenko and Al Lindsay who dropped Annabelle Hackney and Reid Yennie, 6-1, 6-2.
At Smooth mixed doubles consolation, father-daughter Jeff and Elizabeth Young squeezed by Heidi Bek and Jefferson Cando, 6-2, 2-6, 10-8.In the Rough Division women's doubles round robin Debbie Cooper and Susan Kimball were undefeated in three matches. Kelly Nagi and Laura Schroeder were runners-up.
The Smooth men's singles round robin winner was Walter Braswell who breezed through his matches unmatched. William Mallory made it to the finals.
The Smooth Division women's singles round robin winner was Lauri McAuliffe. Anne William-son finished in second place.
Participation in the annual tennis tournament increased from 64 in '07 to 90 players this year. A considerable part of the growth was due to the larger number of younger players including Kent Leonard, Reid Yennie, Conner Nicol, Jock Cooperrier, Jack Roberts, Austin Stephenson, Justice Yennie, Lucy Hackney, Bud Nicol, Annabelle Hackney, and Elizabeth Young.
Tourney Director Mas Kimball expressed gratitude to Farm Neck Tennis Director Mike Johns and Vineyard Youth Tennis Director Scott Smith.
The tournament raised more than $6,000 for Hospice of Martha's Vineyard.