The 2017 Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) football season ended prematurely, two games short of a full slate, but the Vineyarders seized the night in their final game. The Vineyard gridders played with passion and guts from first play to last, and shut out the Greater New Bedford Bears, 14-0, in front of a large crowd Friday night at Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs. Twenty-two Vineyarders dressed for the occasion, and Coach Ryan Kent got a superb effort out of each and every one of them.
“Obviously, it’s been an incredibly long, trying season,” Mr. Kent said. “I can’t think of a better way, under the circumstances especially, for these kids to have a final night out on the field. I just couldn’t be more proud and couldn’t be happier for them. They proved to themselves that they can do it, and now we can move forward.”
Prior to the opening kickoff, the Vineyarders honored senior players Cooper Bennett, Connor Bettencourt, Jerry DaSilva, Cory Medeiros, Michael Moore, Zach Moreis, John Morris, and Sam Rollins, along with senior cheerleaders Rachaya Lane-Jette, Teika Lampart, Kacion Robinson, and Nauamy Alves.
Before the Vineyarders took the field, Coach Kent stressed to his players the uniqueness of the opportunity in front of them. “I told them this is their last chance,” he said. “These teams are special. You’re never, ever going to get to do this again, and after tonight, you’re going to be regular people just like us. So go out, leave everything on the field, and have fun tonight.”
On a mild November night, under a full moon, the Vineyarders got off to a dream start. The Bears fumbled on their first drive, and Michael Courtney recovered, giving MV a first and ten at their own 39. Two plays later, Zach Moreis fired the ball over the middle to a wide-open Cooper Bennett, who sprinted to the endzone for a 56-yard touchdown, electrifying the Vineyard bench and the already raucous home crowd. Moreis ran a sweep to the right corner for the two-point conversion, and the Vineyarders led 8-0, 4:50 into the game.
The Bears fumbled again on the second play of their next drive, John Morris recovered, and Moreis promptly punished the visitors with a 49-yard touchdown run down the left sideline. The first quarter ended with Vineyarders on top 14-0, and that’s the way it would stay.
The game was rife with turnovers and penalties the rest of the way, but style points were irrelevant in this tale. The Vineyard offense had all the points necessary to win, and the Vineyard defense shut the door thereafter, allowing the Bears little room to roam.
Moreis finished with 152 yards rushing on 15 carries, and completed six of 16 passes for 106 yards. Cooper Bennett had two receptions for 75 yards, Tristan Scheller caught three passes for 31 yards, and Jerry DaSilva rushed for 29 yards on seven carries. John Morris led the Vineyard defense with eight tackles and an interception, and had a 42-yard punt to boot. Sam Rollins had five tackles, and Jason Davey recovered a pair of fumbles.
“It definitely meant a lot, the win and a shutout,” Moreis said after the game. “We all went out there and we all played for each other. We all knew that it would come down to this last game. Word was out, and we were all playing this last one for Coach Kent. We played good together, and it was a good last game.”
With just over a minute to play, Coach Kent got his first Gatorade bath of the season. As the final whistle blew, the jubilant Vineyarders and their fans finally had something to celebrate, and poured onto to the field to join together.