Vineyarders beat Coyle and Cassidy, 28-21 under Friday night lights

The game featured a blocked punt that was returned for a Martha's Vineyard score.

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Running back Jacob Cardoza breaks free for a huge touchdown run. — Photo by Michael Cummo

Updated 5 pm, Monday

The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) football team advanced to 2-1 on the 2015 season with a 28-21 victory over Coyle Cassidy High School in an Eastern Athletic Conference (EAC) tilt Friday night at Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs.

The Vineyarder offense was led by two touchdown runs from senior captain Ben Clark, another from senior standout Curtis Farrell. A blocked punt by sophomore Zach Moreis was returned for a touchdown by junior defensive standout Elijah Matthews in an exciting game featuring outstanding athletic plays from both teams. James Sashin converted four point-after touchdown kicks for the Vineyarders.

Offensively, The Vineyarders were led by Jacob Cardoza’s 167 rushing yards. Ben Clark contributed TD runs of 7 and 18 yards, the last on an intelligently-played change of direction run and a 43-yard bolt by Curtis Farrell. The Vineyarders also had two TDs, including a 50-yard pass play, called back for penalties.

Senior quarterback Tucker McNeely was 4 for 9 passing for 55 yards, including three completions in key situations to Jacob Cardoza, Ben Clark and junior wideout James Sashin.  

In their third game of the season, the Vineyarders revealed themselves to be extraordinarily talented on offense, defense and on special teams/kicking. However a propensity to turn the ball over and to incur unnecessary penalties at critical times occasioned much head-holding in the stands.

A game that could have been a runaway win became a nail-biter as the result of several Vineyarder turnovers and unnecessary penalties.That the Vineyarders were able to overcome their mistakes against a solid Coyle Cassidy team team, unlike their season opener 20-15 loss to Carver High School, indicates that the team is jelling around its talent and will be a force in the EAC.

As an example, Jacob Cardoza had more than 100 all-purpose yards by halftime and the team has been without his tandem running back Austin Chandler, who returns this week from injury.

“We have to be more disciplined,” Vineyarder coach Don Herman said on Monday. “We could be 3-0 but we’re not. This week we face Bishop Feehan, a senior dominant team and probably the top team we’ll face all year.”

The coach said he would emphasize disciplined play this week to reduce personal foul penalties, but he noted that facemask penalties incurred Friday night were the result of reaching for the ball carrier, rather than personal fouls.

The evening began with the singing of the national anthem by senior Darby Patterson, a member of the Minnesinger chorus, and a tribute to 2009 MVRHS graduate and U.S. Marine Ben Ferry.

The Vineyarders began the night with stout defense forcing a three and out. After the Vineyarder offense stalled, Coyle Cassidy moved down the field before stopped on fourth and one in the red zone, courtesy of a Lucas DeBettencourt tackle.

At this point, both teams realized that running  the middle wasn’t working and Curtis Farrell scored on the Vineyarder’s next possession on a 43-yard sweep. Coyle Cassidy mounted an attack, including a pass completion to Gronk-esque tight end Hunter Jones before a fumble recovery gave the ball back to the Vineyarders.

The offense stalled after a holding penalty called back a Jacob Cardoza score, then a red zone fumble gave the ball back to Coyle Cassidy at their nine-yard line before Zack Moreis blocked the punt, leading to Elijah Matthew’s scoop and score and a 14-0 lead with 6:19 left in the half.

Coyle Cassidy was stopped in Vineyarder territory but a facemask penalty gave the Coyle Cassidy a first down at the Vineyarder 29, from which the visitors scored on a sweep by speedy back Connor Rodriguez to cut the margin to 14-7.

The Vineyarders fumbled on their next possession and Coyle Cassidy scored on a 25-yard TD pass to Hunter Jones. The score was 14-14 just before halftime.

Coyle Cassidy stalled in its second half opening drive and Zack Moreis blocked his second punt, giving the Vineyarders the ball at Coyle Cassidy’s 24 yard line, leading to Ben Clark’s savvy 18-yard scoring run for a 21-14 lead.

Ben Clark would add his second touchdown for a 28-14 lead with 3:08 left in the third. The Vineyarders lost a 55-yard passing TD to penalty and surrendered a late TD pass to Hunter Jones, aided by a personal foul penalty, with 4:45 left. Elijah Matthews intercepted a pass deep in Vineyarder territory to seal the win.

In addition to offensive proficiency, the Vineyarder defense, with two interceptions by Elijah Matthews and Ennis Foster and prodigious sacks from Lucas DeBettencourt and James Sashin, showed  great promise for Mr Herman’s final season at the helm.

“I like this team. We’re thin (in depth) but we’re talented,” Mr. Herman said.