Updated Sept. 23
Donald Herman’s high school football team came of age on a Friday afternoon turned evening with a grown-up, hard-nosed performance, beating talented, tough Southbridge, 22-8, at Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs.
Let the record show that Antone Moreis (2 scores) and Jayden Coyle scored the TDs. Owen Metell caught a two-point conversion and Moreis kicked two points-after-TD. But the record won’t show Smith’s hard count on fourth and three that drew the Pioneers offside on a critical possession.
It won’t show a defense that stood up ball carriers to deny a first down or a herculean effort by punter Braden Sayles, punting on the run out of his endzone to put Southbridge 25 yards away from paydirt.
The record will show that Mr. Inside (Hunter Meader) and Mr. Outside (Coyle) emerged as a genuine, gold-plated threat in only the third game, with Smith and Owen Mettell giving the defense something else to worry about and that Hoffie Hearn went way up to haul in a 21 yard pass to keep a third and long drive going.
We heard the phrase “Meader up the middle” from PA guy Tim Low 13 times Friday night as Meader rumbled for 93 yards on the ground. Considering he had 32 yards on one carry, that’s lots of pile-moving three and four yard carries. While he was keeping ‘em busy inside, Antone Moreis and Jayden Coyle were running sweeps (for 106 yards between them). Justin Chin had six tough yards and Ty Mathew also had six yards.
You could pick anybody on the team for crucial plays on defense with three interceptions (Meader, Sayles and Metell), open field tackles, pass knockdowns, and tackles for losses. What we’re also learning is that a fumbled football is like a magnet to lineman Brian Torres. Torres had one of theirs and one of ours tonight, giving him at least four recoveries in three games.
What you couldn’t find, other than in one series, were the mistakes, penalties and shoot-yourself-in-the-foot plays that marked earlier efforts. There was some trickeration and strategery from the ol’ ball coach, a la Smith’s hard count and double reverse handoffs.
The middling sized crowd stood before the opening kickoff for a moment of silence to honor Island good guys Steve Ruley and Fran Paciello, lifelong supporters of Vineyarder football who both passed away this summer.
Then a thriller broke out. MVRHS sophomore cheerleader and Minnesinger Grace Scheller had no sooner finished the national anthem than PIoneers QB Johnny Cortez unleashed a 66-yard TD toss on a flat pass that permitted virtually every Vineyarder a swipe at the receiver. The two-pointer was good. 8-0. Uh-oh time?
Nope, that would be it for the Pioneers. The Vineyarders came right back, right down the field. Smith punched it in from the five, tossed a two-pointer to a wide-open Metell and we’re tied.
With 1:14 left in the half, Torres fell on a Pioneer fumble and a combo of Meader up the middle and Coyle’s 35-yard sweep gave the Vineyarders a 15-8 edge at halftime.
The teams banged away for most of the second half, both defenses doing their job, until Meader, pass rushing, tipped a pass that Metell caught for an INT with 2:41 left. The Vineyarders used inside and outside running to grind almost 2:30 off the clock before Moreis took a counter handoff in for a five-yard score, then kicked the point-after for the final 22-8 tally.
With 1:14 left, the Pioneers pulled out all the stops until Braden Sayles ended it with an interception with nine ticks left.
A brilliant game also on the defensive side. Coach Herman’s probably been dreaming about the trademark swarming defense that took eight of his teams (five wins) to Super Bowl heaven. He got it Friday night as 12 different players showed up on the defensive stat sheet with 30 tackles and 15 assists.
While gang-tackling likely left some defenders unidentified, we know our players had six tackles/assists, led by Josh Pinto with six tackles, Owen Mettell and Hunter Meader (4/2), Braden Sayles (3/3), Ty Mathews (3/1), Hoffie Hearn and Brian Torres (2/2), Antone Moreis (2/1), Justin Chin and Jayden Coyle, 2 tackles apiece, and James Dyke and David Butkowski one tackle each.
“It was a hard-fought game, a lot of ebb and flow. We were burned early on a big play, then we settled down and played pretty well. We made mistakes and the O-line needs to be more aggressive. We hope to continue to improve and our coaching goal this week is to figure out our focus on fundamentals, including the center/quarterback exchanges,” Herman said on Sunday.
Bourne High School is up next after a bye week for the Vineyarders, now 2-1. They’ll take on the Canalmen in Bourne on Oct. 4
“They were senior-heavy last year so they are in rebuilding mode. I haven’t seen film on them yet, but I do know they beat us up pretty good last year,” Herman said.
Updated to include player stats. – Ed.