The Vineyarders of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) tuned up for the Island Cup game next week with a convincing 36-8 win over Monomoy Regional High School (now 1-5) in Harwich Friday night.
The Vineyarders (now 4-2) and the Nantucket Whalers (2-3) vie for the Cup for the 40th time next Saturday at 1 pm at Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs.
The Vineyarders jumped out early Friday night, and took a 21-6 halftime lead, scoring twice in the second half to win going away. Ty Mathew (44 yards) and Hunter Meader (18 yards) had a pair of rushing TDs for the Purple, and Antone Moreis chipped in a one-yard fourth-quarter TD to seal it. Going into Friday night, Moreis was second in scoring among Division 6 EMass players. With 76 rushing yards on Friday night, Moreis has nine TDs and 548 yards rushing in the past four games.
The Vineyarders had 300-plus total yards for the third week in a row, including 242 net rushing and 43 net passing yards, in addition to 27 kick return yards.
The Vineyarders have established a pattern of play this season that has served them well (when they behave themselves). Long offensive drives, featuring several skill players, have been key to success.
Moreis’ success has made him a magnet for defenders, and the Purple has other talent to take advantage of defenses. For example, Jayden Coyle had 56 yards on three carries to get into the red zone on Moreis’ fourth-quarter score, finishing a 14-play, 74-yard drive. Not to be overlooked this week was the running back debut of lineman Brian Torres, who busted it for four yards on two carries.
The point-after kicking game has been weak (a second blocked attempt in two weeks) this season, but the two 2-point conversions this week looked better.
The swarming defensive schemes favored by Coach Donald Herman are making themselves a constant this season. Four players,: Jayden Coyle, Meader, Josh Pinto, and Braden Sayles, each had five tackles, and 11 players showed up on the defensive stat sheet.
Kudos to stats guy Jared Meader, whose tech skills permit him to produce complete, articulate game stats shortly after the final whistle, to the delight of occasionally whiny reporters.
The Vineyarders now prepare for their Saturday, Oct. 26, matchup with Nantucket. A win, in addition to returning the Island Cup to MVRHS, would give both teams a 2-1 record in the C&I and a possible share of the Cape & Islands Lighthouse Division crown in 2019.
Herman knows he’s catching a team on a roll. The Whalers have won three in a row (3-3 overall), and are 2-0 in the C&I after a 26-0 shutout of Sandwich last Friday with the return of three skill players from injury.
Last year the Whalers won 48-7, the most points either team has ever scored in the 41-year classic, to take the Cup across Nantucket Sound.
Overall, the teams have played 70 times, with the Whalers holding a 37-30-3 advantage. Since the Island Cup game was minted in 1978, the Vineyarders have a 20-19 advantage in a high school rivalry that may be the most famous in the country.
The game has been on TV, the subject of books and national magazine and newspaper pieces, all about teams that take boats to play each other.
“I think we’re a little bit better than last year. We are making progress, though we’re not where we want to be,” Coach Donald Herman said.
“Nantucket will be the fastest team we face; they have speed everywhere. Their record doesn’t reflect early-season injuries, but we’ll represent ourselves better than we did last year. We’re waiting to hear whether Oscar Shepherd [foot injury] and Hoffie Hearn [shoulder woes] are cleared to play. If we get one or both back, they will give us more much-needed depth and ability.
“So we have to play as perfect a game as we can and hope they make some mistakes,” he said.
Good guy Whalers Coach Joe Perry is feeling better about his squad. “We finally showed up last week against Sandwich. We played up-tempo and physically, and showed good conditioning in the fourth quarter against a good physical team.
“And we had our three top athletes together on the field for the first time since their freshman year. Devonte Usher and Torane Benton are ball carriers with speed, they give you a Walter Payton/Barry Sanders look, and pur sophomore quarterback Makai Bodden has been very good for us.
“Without them early, it was tough to go against the big boys,” he said, adding, “We tell the kids to win their own battle and we’ll be OK,” he said.
“It feels like the rivalry we’ve always had. I graduated in 1982 and played four years in this game,” Perry said of his Whaler years. “It’s really good to see Donald back and bringing Vineyard football back. I expect a lot of clock management from the Vineyard team this year, but for sure, you can throw the records out the window in this game,” he said.
Herman and Perry stressed the respectful nature of the rivalry, and called for fans to be enthusiastic but respectful of players and fans alike.
Perry may have a nice walk down memory lane and see some familiar faces on Saturday. Herman has asked alumni to practice with the team this week, and specifically is asking alumni and coaches from every generation to form the tunnel for Vineyarders to run through before kickoff. Former players and coaches should report at 1 pm to Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs.
“There’s a lot going on here on Saturday. The JV game and a flag football game will be played at 10:30 before the varsity kickoff at 1:30,” Herman said, noting that road signs (printed or make-your-own) are available at MVRHS all week for $10, benefiting the Touchdown Club.