The 2019 Vineyarder gridders appear to be gulping Coach Donald Herman’s healthy Kool-Aid, a 30-year-old recipe for high-quality defensive play.
“Swarming defense. That’s our signature trait, what we’re known for, and what has made us successful over the years, We need the kids, the parents, everyone connected with our program to drink the defensive Kool-Aid,” Herman said before Saturday’s final preseason scrimmage with Brighton High School.
His Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) football team, in the second year of a rebuild (3-8 in 2018), showed the Kool-Aid effect on the defensive side of the ball, holding Brighton’s talented skill players scoreless in the three-quarter scrimmage before 50 to 60 fans at Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs.
We like to say in this space that Herman throws compliments around like manhole covers, but you could tell he is liking a lot of what he’s seeing from a sophomore- and junior-laden squad. He rated the Brighton run-through a solid 7. The Vineyarders scored the only TD, and outperformed Brighton in yardage gained two- or three-to-one.
Sophomore quarterback Zach Smith will run an option offense this year, with junior Hunter Meader and senior Hoffie Hearn getting major reps at running back.
“We have 35 players; we were hoping for 45, but we have enough for a JV squad this year, and we’ve got six Saturday JV games scheduled: Monomoy (2) and Sandwich (2), and single games with Mashpee and Southbridge,” he said. Mike Cutrer and Zeke Vought will coach the JV team that has struggled to attract the numbers necessary to field a JV unit in recent seasons.
The 11-game MVRHS varsity Cape and Islands League season begins this weekend against nonleague Seekonk High School at Dan McCarthy Field. The game date and time is up in the air due to the threat of Hurricane Dorian. This story will be updated with that information when it becomes available to us.
“If we stay healthy, I like our chances this year. First, we have experience and talent. We aren’t deep, but we can put a talented group out there,” Herman said.
The Vineyarders will be led by senior captain Josh Pinto and junior captain quarterback Smith. “We may add captains as the season goes along,” Herman said.
Herman has only three seniors: Pinto, Hoffie Hearn, and Justin Chin, but he has a cadre of 12 juniors and eight sophomores, most of whom were either starters or saw significant playing time in 2018. He also has a corps of 12 freshmen, some of whom project to have significant varsity playing time this season, as well as JV experience.
“We are young, but freshmen and sophomores played a lot last year. Three freshmen lettered in 2018, so game experience is a strength. We hope to feature an option offense. Depending on how well Zach is able to read defenses, we are open to throwing the ball,” he said.
Herman has moved junior Hunter Meader from offensive line to fullback, and senior Hoffie Hearn will be a featured running back. Herman looks for contributions from sophomores Antone Moreis (who scored against Brighton on Saturday), Jayden Coyle, and Kaleb Hatt, who all started as sophomores, and from Ty Matthew, who’s returning to football from soccer.
And ‘young’ is a relevant term. Meader and Hearn, for example, are hard-nosed MVRHS hockey players, fast learners who grew up quickly on the ice as underclassmen. Herman figures to get quality play from juniors Micah Vought and Oscar Shepherd, major contributors in 2018. “So we have experience; we need to jell and execute,” Herman summarized.
The roster includes:
Seniors (3): Hoffie Hearn, Justin Chin, and Josh Pinto.
Juniors (12): Braden Sayles, James Dyke, David Butkowsky, Brendon Pires, Brian Torres, Oscar Shepherd, Zach Smith, Micah Vought, Hunter Meader, Nathan Sawyer, Owen Metell, and Aden Ross.
Sophomores (8): Antone Moreis, Ty Mathew, Jayden Coyle, Jordan Coyle, Alec Calverley, Kaleb Hatt, Washington Alves, and Owen Amodio.
Freshman (12) : T.J. Lett, Quinn Littlefield (backup QB), Isaac Moreis, Harper Hearn, Matteus Prata, Brayden Scheffer, Lincoln Marino, Christian Turner, Brendon Wood, Nathan London, Preston Averill, and Luke Nascimento.
Herman’s veteran staff includes Jason O’Donnell, defensive coach; Cutrer, line coach; Jason Neago, defensive back/running backs; Rusty Ventura, line coach; and Vought, receiver/defensive backs.