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MVRHS football

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MVRHS varsity football team enjoys its fourth consecutive victory.

Jacob Cardoza makes a spectacular grab on a flea flicker pass from James Sashin. –Photos by Ralph Stewart

Martha’s Vineyard won its fourth consecutive varsity football game in convincing fashion by shutting out the Bellingham Blackhawks 28-0 Friday night at a chilly Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs.

Clockwise from bottom left: Vineyard cheerleaders Kayla Oliver, Samantha Cameron and Cykka Lovett perform during the halftime show.
Clockwise from bottom left: Vineyard cheerleaders Kayla Oliver, Samantha Cameron and Cykka Lovett perform during the halftime show.

The victory evened the Vineyard record at 5-5 and atoned for a 35-6 loss to Bellingham in the 2000 Eastern Mass Division 5 Super Bowl. In that game, the lone Vineyard highlight belonged to Travis Baptiste, who scored on the opening kickoff.

“The difference tonight was that we didn’t run the opening kickoff back for a touchdown,” Vineyard coach Donald Herman joked after the win. “We have a teacher [at MVRHS], Ryan Kent, who played on the 2000 Bellingham team and, of course he’s been thumping Bellingham and wore his jersey today. I told him if we don’t run the opening kickoff back for a touchdown we have a good chance to win.”

On this night, Bellingham received the opening kickoff and drove to the Vineyard 15 behind a bruising ground game, chewing up 8:57 of clock. The Vineyard defense refused to break, however, and forced a turnover on downs.

The Vineyarders responded with an 85 yard drive, capped off by a 12-yard touchdown pass from Mike Mussell to Ben Clark with 23 seconds left in the first quarter. James Sashin booted the extra point to put M.V. up 7-0.

Mike Mazza thwarted the Blackhawks next drive with a leaping interception. The Vineyarders drove deep into Bellingham territory but did not score.

Ben Clark stiff arms a Bellingham foe, while Vineyard teammate Andrew Fournier moves in to assist.
Ben Clark stiff arms a Bellingham foe, while Vineyard teammate Andrew Fournier moves in to assist.

The Purple doubled their lead with 1:30 left in the second period after Ben Clark broke loose on the option for an 80-yard run down the left sideline. M.V. led 14-0 and nearly added another score before halftime. On the final possession of the half, the Vineyarders started at their own 20-yard line. First, Jacob Cardoza rumbled down the right sideline for 28 yards. Next, James Sashin lobbed a flea flicker to Cardoza, who made a spectacular diving catch at the Bellingham 15. The Vineyarders got off three more plays before time ran out but the Blackhawks snared Mussell’s final throw in the back of the endzone.

The Vineyarders continued to excel on both sides of the ball throughout the second half.

Dan Costello recovered a fumble at the Bellingham 48, 4:26 into the third quarter. Mike Mussell connected with James Sashin on passes of 25 and 10 yards before Jacob Cardoza bulled in from the two for the Vineyard’s third TD of the night. Sashin then split the uprights to make it 21-0.

Lucas DeBettencourt put the finishing touch on a sparkling Vineyard effort with a two-yard touchdown plunge late in the final period.

After an 0-4 start, the Vineyarders have pulled themselves back to .500.

 David Macias sacks Bellingham quarterback Alec Godfrey.
David Macias sacks Bellingham quarterback Alec Godfrey.

“I’m very proud of the way the guys have rebounded,” Coach Herman said. “We’ve won four in a row now. We’re 5-5 with an opportunity next week to finish up with a winning season. That’s an awesome goal for us right now. We haven’t given up any points in the past two weeks. They [Bellingham] had a pretty good offense. The main thing we wanted to accomplish was to come out of this game healthy.”

And healthy the Vineyarders are heading into next Saturday’s clash with Nantucket in the 36th playing of the Island Cup.

Pending a game at West Bridgewater November 15, the Whalers are currently 7-2 under first year coach Brian Ryder and have a big, talented squad.

“It’s going to be exciting,” Coach Herman said. “We’re excited. They’re a good football team. They’ve been having a great year. They have a new coach this year, Brian Ryder, who played for Vito [legendary Nantucket coach Vito Capizzo]. He’s done a good job there. They’re big, physical and athletic, so I look forward to a very good football game.”

The 36th Island Cup kicks-off at 1:30 pm Saturday, November 22 at Dan McCarthy Field. The Vineyarders lead the Cup 18-17 and have won 10 straight over their island rivals, while Nantucket holds a 35-28-3 edge in the overall series dating back to 1953. The jayvee contest begins at 10:30 am.

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Martha’s Vineyard wide reciever James Sashin catches a Mike Mussell pass, which ended with a touchdown, on the first drive of the game. – Photos by Michael Cummo

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) Vineyarders ran big plays early and often to beat the Bourne High School Canalmen, 41-6, Friday night at Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs.

After stifling Bourne on downs in the game’s opening possession, senior quarterback Mike Mussell unleashed a 39-yard strike to a wide-open sophomore James Sashin for the score barely two minutes into the tilt. James Sashin added the first of his six extra points for a 7-0 Vineyard lead.

The Vineyarders took over on downs after the ensuing Bourne possession and on the first play from scrimmage, junior back Jacob Cardoza scored on an 80-yard burst up the middle for a 14-0 lead as a thin Halloween night crowd was settling into their seats shortly after MVRHS cheerleader Oshantay Waite sang the national anthem.

Vineyard running back Jacob Cardoza scoes a touchdown.
Vineyard running back Jacob Cardoza scoes a touchdown.

The rejuvenated Vineyarder squad (3-5), which has won three of its last four games after an 0-4 start, has been piling up impressive numbers over the last two weeks. On Friday night, Mike Mussell was 5 for 7 passing for 158 yards with three TD passes as well as receiving a touchdown pass from James Sashin. Mike has 14 TD passes thus far this season.

Juniors Jacob Cardoza and Ben Clark each scored twice. Ben Clark had 117 yards rushing to lead the team. Jacob Cardoza, with 101 yards rushing, also eclipsed the single season reception yardage record (576 yards) set in 1992 by Albie Robinson.

The first half offensive onslaught continued with a 40-yard pass from Mussell to Cardoza and a 64-yard catch and run by Jacob Cardoza. Bourne scored on a 28-yard run by Dylan Kehoe. The point-after failed and the teams headed to the locker room with the Vineyarders leading 27-6.

Ben Clark closed out the Vineyarder scoring in the second half with TDs in the third (24 yards) and fourth quarters (66 yards).

Head coach Donald Herman, who has endured the worst start (0-4) in his 29 years on the Vineyard sidelines, said he was heartened by the effort on Friday night.

“Yeah, we had some big plays,” he said. “It’s nice to see that we are starting to figure some things out. We were able to take advantage of some of the defensive schemes that Bourne was playing, but the important thing was that our kids executed well.”

Asked for his takeaway from this game, he provided the following assessment. “We are on track to being where we want to be, one step closer to a 6-5 winning season. We’ve won three of our last four and we have three games left and a lot of work to do to get there.”

While the Vineyarder offensive production was impressive on Friday night, Mr. Herman had kudos for his defense and the kicking game, featuring sophomore James Sashin whose punting work was impressive, including one booming 40-yard kick into a stiff wind.

Some fans came to the game dressed in Halloween costumes.
Some fans came to the game dressed in Halloween costumes.

Bourne produced an effective running game which kept the quick-strike Vineyarders offense off the field for extended periods of time. Longtime Vineyarder fan Richard “Stoney” Stone, sitting gamely atop the bleachers in frigid conditions, offered this appraisal. “I think Bourne has had more time of possession than we have,” he said.

In truth, Bourne did run the ball effectively against a Vineyarder defense that bent but didn’t break, coming up with big plays to stop the Canalmen four times on downs, including one series in which the Vineyarders tallied tackles for lost yardage on three consecutive plays.

“We’ve got an excellent linebacking corps,” Stoney said. “Austin Chandler (15 tackles to lead the defense Friday night) is having a fantastic season with Ben Clark, David Macias. Luke DeBettencourt, Andy DiMattia (14 tackles on Friday night) had very strong games.”

He noted that David is the only senior in the group. “We started some sophomores on Friday and we’ll start them again,” he said.

Which bodes well for the future? “We need numbers. Overall the numbers  are low,” he said. In fact, the Vineyarders suited up only 28 players on Friday night to face a 1-7 Bourne team with only 23 players in uniform.

At halftime, a passing Bourne fan agreed. “It’s tough. You know, most of our kids have been playing together since Pop Warner and they’ve kept playing into high school,” he said.

The Vineyarders play next Friday at Joseph Case High School in Swansea. The game against an 0-8 Cardinal squad begins at 6 pm.

They meet Bellingham High School at home on November 14 before hosting Nantucket for the annual Island Cup matchup at 1:30 pm, Saturday, Nov. 22. The schools’ JV teams play at 10:30 am.

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The first home football matchup of the season found the Vineyard overmatched.

Sophomore Ennis Foster runs past a Bishop Feehan defender. –Photo by Michael Cummo.

The first home football game of the Martha’s Vineyard season ended Monday afternoon with a disappointing 22-0 defeat at the hands of a strong Bishop Feehan squad. Despite the defeat, the Junior Varsity boys made a solid defensive showing.

Freshman Zach Moreis makes a tackle behind the line of scrimmage.
Freshman Zach Moreis makes a tackle behind the line of scrimmage.

With only 20 boys in uniform to Bishop Feehan’s 41, the Vineyarders faced an uphill battle. They started strong, though, and the MV defense had a “bend but not break” attitude, giving up some yardage but eventually making a fourth-down stand and getting the ball back.

With 2:50 left in the first quarter, MV muffed a fourth-down punt attempt and fell on the football at their own 9-yard line, giving the Shamrocks great field position. Freshman Curtis Fournier had something to say about that, though. On fourth down, he batted down a Bishop Feehan pass at the line of scrimmage, causing the Vineyard bench to erupt.

Quarterback Sam Bresnik scrambles away from pressure, looking to throw it downfield.
Quarterback Sam Bresnik scrambles away from pressure, looking to throw it downfield.

It was a brief surge. The Vineyarder offense stalled, and at halftime the boys were down 6-0 after a touchdown and failed conversion early in the second quarter. During the opening drive of the second half, MV quarterback Sam Bresnik had a nice nine-yard run, but it could not save the drive. The Vineyard offense was focused on executing option plays, most of which were runs. But the Shamrocks defense stacked the box, making it hard to find running room.

With six minutes left of the third quarter, Bishop Feehan scored again on a screen pass, and after the two-point conversion left the Vineyarders trailing 14-0.

Linebacker Elijah LaRue sacks the opposing quarterback for a loss.
Linebacker Elijah LaRue sacks the opposing quarterback for a loss.

Freshman Zach Moreis had a good day on the ground, putting together several solid running plays. But that was not enough to make up for costly turnovers. With 3:20 left in the third quarter, a fourth-down punt was again muffed, and even though Martha’s Vineyard fell on the loose ball, a turnover on downs gave Bishop Feehan field position in the red zone. After a seven-yard TD run, MV was down 22-0 with just over a quarter remaining.

The boys did not give up, though. Their defense put together a solid effort culminating in a turnover; linebacker Wilson Redfield tipped a Feehan pass behind the line of scrimmage, falling on the loose ball, eliciting a raucous cheer from the fans and the bench alike.

To their credit, the junior varsity team never conceded the football game. They played hard, and made Bishop Feehan work to score. The next home game is 6 pm Friday, when the boys varsity team takes on Bishop Strang.

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Athletes were on the field running, jumping, kicking and sweating.

The football team takes a brief water break during an early morning hell week practice on Tuesday. (Photo by Michael Cummo) — Photo by Michael Cummo

Several hundred Island high school athletes are catching their breath as pre-season practices wind down in advance of competitive play next week.

While pre-season doesn’t include the “Hell Week” of two-a-day practices common a decade ago, coaches here push their charges with two or more hours of conditioning and drills to prepare often under-manned squads for Eastern Athletic Conference play.

Football coach Don Herman, in his 32nd year, pushed play repetition in the early going with QB Mike Mussell returning after missing a season with a thumb injury. With only 50 candidates for the varsity and JV programs, Mr. Herman is maximizing skills and minimizing the potential for injury. “The fact is that most injuries occur in practice, not in games, and the days of using JV players as tackling dummies is long past,” he said.

Firs-year soccer coach Esteban Aranzabes has installed a system he learned in his native Uruguay and which served him well as coach of the Island’s U-18 squad. “The game begins in the locker room, not on the field. We stress constant movement in practice for conditioning and drills. Players move 80 percent of the time in games, we want to simulate that in practice. We use drills that stress a unitized team effort, including walking to the field in two lines,” he said.

Cross-country and track coach Joe Schroeder, in his 27th season, has learned over the years that the key to preparation lies in mental preparedness and goal-setting. “Cross-country is more of a mental sport and a team sport than many realize,” he said. “The kids are better prepared when they come in pre-season. They have to prepare themselves for the course. This sport requires athletes to be mentally strong. We’re not memorizing plays. Our work is goal-setting and belief in self, understanding that the gap in distance between first place and fifth place is important to the team, for example.”

The first games of the season begin next week. The varsity and junior varsity golf teams play Somerset Berkley Regional High School on Tuesday at 2:45 pm at Farm Neck golf club. Both the boys and girls soccer teams play on Wednesday, with the boys travelling to Nauset Regional High School for a 4 pm game and the girls taking on Nauset at home at 3 pm.

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Attention all 2014 junior high and incoming MVRHS freshmen football players. There will be an informational meeting for players and parents on Monday, May 19, at 6 pm in the high school cafeteria. Dessert will be served.

For anyone interested in playing junior high football who cannot attend, contact Steve Quinn at sq5871@hotmail.com; for high school football, contact Donald Herman at: dherman@mvyps.org.