MVRHS in two-minute drill to hire football coach

Many think Herman can bring back the glory days.

Ryan Kent, MVRHS special education and physical education teacher, is stepping aside after one year as head coach of the football program. — Stacey Rupolo

Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School athletic director Mark McCarthy is running a two-minute offense to select a new MVRHS football coach by June 22, the final school day of the year.

The high school is following normal protocols for hiring new coaches, has advertised the opening for two weeks, and is planning to schedule interviews with at least four identified candidates early next week, including legendary former Vineyarder Coach Don Herman, who retired in 2015.

“We’d like to be able to introduce the coach to the school before summer break [June 22] and in time to introduce the new coach to the community at the annual Touchdown Club cookout on June 24,” McCarthy said. The booster club’s cookout/meet and greet at MVRHS begins at 5 pm at its concession stand next to the football field.

The new coach process was set in motion by current Coach Ryan Kent’s decision to step down after recently receiving a Martha’s Vineyard Vision Fellowship to pursue an advanced degree in adaptive physical education. Kent, a 12-year MVRHS special-ed teacher, will also develop an athletic program here for special-needs and other kids, first in basketball and track. The “Unified Sports” program is a growing program that joins special needs students with other students who do not choose to play varsity sports but have an interest in playing athletics. Kent notified McCarthy, reportedly early last week, of his decision.

Herman is believed to be among three candidates for the job.

Under Herman, the Vineyarders went 220-90 over 28 seasons, winning five state championships, and as important on the Island, won the coveted Island Cup in 12 consecutive years against Nantucket in a rivalry that has drawn national television coverage and led to the publishing of at least one book. Nantucket snapped the streak with a 42-0 win in 2016. MVRHS leads the Island Cup series 20-18 since the trophy was introduced in 1978. Nantucket holds a 36-30-3 edge overall since the first meeting in 1953. The teams will meet this year as MVRHS competes as an independent team, awaiting re-formation of a Cape and Islands League in which they and Nantucket will compete, beginning in 2019.

After Herman’s retirement, Vineyarder football fortunes fell on hard times, going 3-17 over two seasons under Steve McCarthy (1-10 in 2016), and 2-7 last fall under Kent in a season shortened by injuries, low numbers, and disciplinary issues. The Island Cup was not played last season.

While neither McCarthy nor Herman will comment on or predict the outcome of the selection process, Island social media has lit up with calls for Herman’s return. Based on community buzz, Herman is odds-on favorite to bring back MVRHS football’s glory days.

The hire will be decided by a five-member selection committee that includes a student-athlete, a volunteer from the education community, a parent of a current or recently graduated student-athlete, and a coach in a sport other than football. McCarthy serves as facilitator, but does not have a vote in the selection process, he said.

For his part, Herman is ready to go if selected, but will support the successful candidate if he isn’t selected. “I’ve done my homework to prepare for the season, and it will all be available to anyone else if that’s the case. My ultimate goal is to restore the program to the place it ought to have,” he said.