Vineyard rolls over Brighton Bengals, 49-6, in homecoming celebration

Former players honored retiring Martha's Vineyard football coach Don Herman at halftime with a touching tribute.

Jacob Cardoza breaks through the Bengals defense during his first game back from suspension. — Photo by Sam Moore

Updated 1 pm, Monday

At Daniel G. McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs Friday night, Donald Herman, the Island’s mustachioed Hall of Fame coach, stepped onto his field before a packed homecoming crowd that was there to send off their coach in what might have been his last home-field appearance in a 28-year career that included eight Massachusetts Super Bowl appearances, five Super Bowl wins, two perfect seasons, and the graduations of three generations of gritty and proud Martha’s Vineyard men.

His team responded, and ended a two-game losing streak Friday night with a 49-6 rout of the Brighton High School Bengals in MIAA interconference play.

Expectations for Friday night’s game were low. To many, the season was over. But Friday night’s homecoming game against Brighton High School provided an opportunity for the community to show up for the coach who had dedicated a large chunk of his life to showing up for them.

At kickoff the team, which only days before had been told by Coach Herman they were not working hard enough, was boiling inside, and was ready to send a message to the rest of the Eastern Athletic Conference that Martha’s Vineyard would not go quietly into the night.

Sitting in the stands, team captain Ted DeBettencourt (’02) spoke approvingly of Coach Herman and his straight talk to the team days earlier.

“Coach knows how to read kids,” he said. “He knows what motivates them.”

Captain Glenn Gaskell (’03), a center on the 2002 Mayflower Championship team, added, “Yeah, it’s how he motivates.”

Nodding in agreement, Mr. DeBettencourt explained his own experience with Herman motivation: After being kicked off the team his sophomore year for breaking team rules, he returned as a junior and went on to earn a spot as a captain his senior year. Before heading over to the rest of the seated alumni, he flashed his two championship rings and grinned with purple pride.

Opening-drive score

Just back from a team-imposed suspension, Jacob Cordoza received the ball to start off, but a broken flea-flicker play from junior James Sashin sailed over the senior tailback’s head by 10 yards. Coach Herman gritted his teeth in frustration and gave Cordoza the ball again. This time a hole opened up, and he broke out for an 11-yard gain and a first down to keep the drive alive. Forty yards later, Cordoza again popped outside for 17 yards to set up senior fullback Ben Clark on the Bengal one-yard line. And in just under 3:30, Clark punched in a definitive opening-drive touchdown.

Ten seconds into the second quarter, the homecoming crowd erupted when Jacob Cordoza broke out for another 20-yard run into the end zone. The scoreboard quickly flickered to 15-0 with the first of James Sashin’s five extra points. Three more touchdowns would come in quick succession — two from Ben Clark and another from senior Austin Chandler — as the Vineyard tallied a 36-6 lead. Coach Herman couldn’t have looked more pleased. Asked what his game plan was for the second half, he smiled the length of the field and said, “Some more of the first!”

Following a halftime tribute to Coach Herman orchestrated by the MV Touchdown Club, the team got back to work.

The Bengals tried to muster some momentum coming out of the half, but an early touchdown from senior back Curtis Farrell, who ended the game averaging 12.4 yards on seven carries, took the final fight out of the orange and black. The defense didn’t waver for a single play, held the Bengals to only 133 yards and seven first downs, and capped off the shutdown performance with a late third-quarter interception by junior defensive back Ennis Foster. The Vineyard show was punctuated by a one-yard touchdown from senior running back Justin Donahue, who finished the day with 41 yards on 10 carries.

By the end of the game, the Vineyard had stitched together a whopping 459 yards of total offense. Jacob Cardoza finished with 91 yards on the ground, Ben Clark amassed 72 total yards from the fullback position, and the leading rusher for the day, Austin Chandler, put up 109 yards, leaving senior quarterback Tucker McNeely with only one thing left to do: Take a knee.

The final score was 49-6, and the Vineyard’s playoff hopes are still alive as they begin preparations for Friday’s road trip to their final conference game against Somerset Berkley. A win next Friday with a loss from Bishop Stang could mean that Coach Herman’s retirement will have to wait just a little bit longer.