The MVRHS Vineyarders football team took a tough loss to the Nantucket Whalers 48-7 at the 70th Island Cup.
Students, teachers, parents, and friends woke up early to catch Saturday’s 7:30 am ferry to Nantucket for the inter-Island classic.
Spirits were high as both teams warmed up. Whaler fans packed onto the bleachers — some shirtless with painted chests despite the cold — and danced to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” as Whalers players charged the field.
The Vineyarders received the opening kickoff, but struggled to get the ground game going, and couldn’t create much offense. A missed snap for a punt resulted in a safety, giving the Whalers an early 2-0 lead.
The Vineyarders did what they could on defense, but the Whalers showed finesse early with their run game, which resulted in several first downs, a touchdown pass, and a field goal, putting the Whalers up 9-0. The Whalers’ defense proved to be formidable as well, and stopped several of the Vineyarders’ drives. The Whalers offense kept rolling throughout the first half, with four touchdowns.
The Vineyarders’ defense did pick up toward the end of the first half, when the Whalers botched a field goal attempt and tried to run it in. The Vineyarders’ defense managed to keep them at bay, but the Whalers held the lead at 29-0 to close out the half.
The second half stayed in favor of the Whalers, but with some big plays by the Vineyarders. The Vineyarders recovered a fumble and gained some decent yardage. The Whalers capitalized on several Vineyarder punts, extending the lead to 36-0.
Late in the fourth quarter, the Vineyarders got a long kickoff return to set themselves up at the four-yard line in Whaler territory. Vineyarder quarterback Ivan Shepherd threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Braden Sayles to prevent a shutout. Vineyarder fans erupted in applause. The final score had the Whalers beating the Vineyarders 48-7.
Shepherd finished the game on 4/10 completions for 20 passing yards and a touchdown. Shepherd also had eight carries for 31 yards.
A handful of Vineyard players contributed on offense. Running back Tristan Scheller got 56 yards on nine carries. Andres Garcia had nine carries for 58 yards.
Garcia, who played double duty on defense, also had nine tackles, with Michael Courtney contributing six tackles of his own.
The Vineyarders finished with 165 total yards of offense.
The crowd kept the energy going from kickoff to the last whistle. Fans from the Vineyard got up early for the boat, gathered outside for the chilly weekend game, and stood and cheered for all four quarters. Several members of the MVRHS administration came along to watch the team play. State Rep. Dylan Fernandes arrived on Nantucket the night before so he could make an appearance at the time-honored game.
Head Coach Don Herman huddled his team at midfield to close out the game. Despite the tough loss, he praised the players, and told them the only way to get better was to get back to work in the off-season. “We have the ability,” he said.
Before the game, Herman had the same tone. “All the ingredients are in the pot,” he said. “We’ve had a good week … we need to stay focused.”
Herman praised the Whalers, highlighting the team’s speed and athleticism. He said the Vineyarders would need to “get stronger” in the off-season if they wanted to come back and compete. Herman was happy that each member of the team got exposure during the game and throughout the season. He noted the team’s kickoff return that lead to a touchdown in the fourth quarter as one of the day’s positives.
When asked about next year, Herman told The Times he would be back at work next season, which will be his 30th. “My wife still wants me out of the house,” he joked.
The Vineyard fans cheered and clapped for the entire football team as they boarded the ferry, looking glad to be headed home.