A smaller, out-manned Marthas’ Vineyard Regional High School junior varsity squad showed up Monday afternoon and gave the Coyle & Cassidy High School junior varsity team all they could handle at Dan Patrick Field. The Vineyarders lost 7 to 6 in the coulda-woulda-shoulda game of the year.
Vineyard quarterback Zach Moreis returned the opening kickoff for a 65-yard touchdown run to give the Vineyarders (0-6 on the season) a 6-0 lead. The point after attempt failed. The Warriors answered late in the first half after returning an interception inside the Vineyard 5 yard line. Three plays and a kicked extra point later, the Warriors had a 7-6 lead that would stand up.
The Vineyarders played smart and inspired defense throughout a game that Coach Jason Neago described as “a significant game, a great effort and a turning point in our season.”
An important point, considering that Coyle & Cassidy employs a sophisticated offense, featuring a shotgun set for both the run and the pass. They use lots of misdirection and pitches in their run game and twice ran a double reverse to which Vineyarder defenders reacted well.
The Vineyard defensive line clogged the middle effectively against the run and created lanes for linebackers to get into the Warrior backfield to make five tackles, each for a loss. Zach Rydzewski, Colby Scarsella and Curtis Fournier had huge games on defense.
The Vineyard offense was more straightforward, with freshman quarterbacks Moreis and Adam Resnick on quarterback running draws and sweeps and sophomores Andrei Bernier and Elijah Matthews busting off-tackle and up the middle. Andrei was a horse on Monday, punishing defenders at the line, dragging linebackers and defensive backs with him for extra yards.
Moreis was an offensive key to Vineyard ball control, reading defensive formations and running for open space. In fact, he was off to the races on three runs until a last defender made a shoe-top tackle. In addition to TD-saving tackles by C&C defenders, the Vineyard coughed the ball up twice inside the C&C 10-yard line. Hence the coulda/woulda/shoulda perspective.
Both teams played hard-nosed ball, neither took a down off, and play raged up and down the field all afternoon. With only 15 Vineyarder players suited up compared with 28 C&C players, the question became whether the Vineyarders, playing both ways, would wilt under constant C&C pressure. Of particular note was the discipline with which the Vineyarders played in a penalty-free second half and only one in the game.
They did not wilt and had a chance late in the fourth quarter after stopping C&C deep in Vineyard territory with 1:32 left. Vineyard coaches and Moreis handled the clock masterfully, with the heady freshman once avoiding a sack to pick up yardage before making it out of bounds to stop the clock. The game ended with the Vineyarders in C&C territory and a C&C interception of a desperation pass with 30 seconds left.
In the post-game huddle, assistant coaches Chris Scarcella and DT Kaeka congratulated their squads before Coach Neago reminded the players that had a C&C rematch on November 17.
Speaking with The Times after the game, Mr. Neago said, “This was our breakout game, I feel. We brought it today. Intensity we’ve been looking for, start to finish. We have players who represent that. Cooper Bennett (a freshman wide receiver at 5 feet, 2 inches and 85 pounds): did you see the blocks he threw that sprung Zach for long gainers? That kid is the heart and soul of our team.”
Mr. Neago knows football players. As a product of high school ball in Massillon, Ohio, a football mecca, Mr. Neago, first-year Vineyarders’ JV coach, also played for the Air Force Academy for two years before a military career.
Both the Vineyard and Coyle & Cassidy varsity squads are looking to reload in 2015 after mediocre 2014 campaigns. The JV performance on Monday showed both schools that help is on the way.
The Vineyard JVs (0-6) have four games remaining, including the rematch with Coyle & Cassidy (3-4) in Taunton.