Growing up 60 miles northeast of Kansas City in Norborne, Mo. (population 900), which self-styled itself as the Soybean Capital of the World, Max Lane could not have been farther away from a seagoing Island culture like ours.
On the other hand, he also probably never saw himself attending the U.S. Naval Academy and playing seven years (1994-2000) as an offensive guard for the New England Patriots of the National Football League (NFL).
But three or four years ago he walked into the community net here, and he’s enmeshed now. That’s why he was in front of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) varsity football team Monday night after practice, dispensing football technique and coaching up life skills and values with which football has provided him.
“This is a little different for me. I’m used to coaching against you guys,” he told the 30 or so varsity Vineyarders who were paying absolutely rapt attention. Lane is a volunteer football coach at Georgetown High School (GHS), with which MVRHS has scrimmaged in the preseason for three of the past four years. The reason that happens is that the GHS Royals head coach is former MVRHS standout Eric McCarthy, scion of the McCarthy family sports dynasty here.
Lane’s son, Hunter Lane, is a 1,000-yard senior receiver for the Royals, and a person of interest to a bunch of D1 college programs.
Lane was on-Island for a charity golf outing, Vineyard Coach Donald Herman heard about it, one thing led to another, and here he was, coaching up skills and spirits of a young football team. These high school gridders haven’t heard of NFL Hall of Fame defensive kamikazes Reggie White and Warren Sapp. Lane’s job was to keep them from dismembering Pats QB Drew Bledsoe.
Players like White and Sapp were of great concern to Lane (6 foot 5, 305 pounds), “but I always wanted to face big guys, my size. I didn’t like the 230-pound guys. Too fast. So if you’re smaller and quicker, use your speed,” he told a team that is generally the smallest on the field, then demonstrated a sidestep blocking technique that served him well in his career.
“You’re going through some challenges now rebuilding your program, and you won’t see the value of your work and football on your life until later, but it’s significant, and football is the only sport that can galvanize a community,” he told the Vineyarders.
Certainly, the stands are full this season as fans celebrate — and agonize — over the 1-2 Vineyarders’ journey back to excellence. Last week’s game against West Bridgewater is an example.
Up 20-7 after scoring with 29 ticks left in the first half, the Vineyarders knuckled the kickoff, which the Wildcats collected at their own 47 then completed a bomb to score with three seconds left in the half.
Then it went sideways in the second half in a renewal of an old Mayflower League football rivalry and the Vineyarders came out on the short end of a 34-26 score.
The Vineyarders started well. Tristan Scheller scored on a 4-yard touchdown run and picked off a Wildcat pass, John McCormick ran 19 yards for another TD and quarterback Ivan Shepard scored from the 1, staking the Vineyarders to a 20-7 lead before West Bridgewater cut the deficit to six on the final play of the first half with a touchdown pass from Matt Lavoie to Christian Keeling.
The ‘Cats clawed their way into the lead and held on for the win with three second half touchdowns. Ivan Shepard scored the final Vineyard TD on an 18-yard run.
Shepard finished the game 7-for-16 with 85 yards passing and ran for 99 yards on 11 carries. Tristan Scheller ran for 81 yards on 10 carries to go with five tackles and an interception. Antone Moreis was the top tackler for the Vineyarders with nine.
Coach Herman liked what he saw — mostly. “This team is working hard. They have good leadership on the field. Frankly four or five plays determined the outcome in both our losses. We can eliminate those mistakes in practice and learn to finish games,” he said.
The Vineyarders host the Bourne Canalmen in the homecoming game, Friday night at 6 pm.