Island Cup gameday: Who and what to look for

Purple will have Hearn, Shepherd today.

Hoffie Hearn, shown here giving the touchdown signal in early-season action, will be back in the lineup for Martha's Vineyard today. — Ralph Stewart

The Nantucket Whalers have 63 players on their roster, including JV players and some middle-schoolers. Many will play in the JV, junior high and flag games before the Island Cup 1:30 kickoff today.

The Whalers have 35 players with varsity numbers but the key Whaler players to watch in the Cup are easy to recognize. They are numbered 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 and are the heart of the Whalers on both sides of the ball. Several of them have been injured this year but all have returned to health, helping Nantucket reel off three straight wins, including two shutouts. 

They are:

#1 Justin Bloise, a sophomore QB who has stepped in to run the offense like a veteran.

#2 Sophomore speed merchant Makai Bodden, if he gets outside, bye-bye.

#3 Junior back Malik Bodden, brings it, as well, to a crowded, talent-laden backfield.

#4 215-pound senior back and middle linebacker Darian Duarte who also plays QB

#5  Senior back and strong safety Devonte Usher, another speedster.

#6, Senior Torane Burton, running back and safety.

Between these six, the 3-3 Whalers bring the same inside/outside threat the Vineyarders have used to their benefit and a 4-2 record this season. 

Line play on both sides of the ball is crucial for the Vineyarders for whom clock management and long drives have been their friends in 2019, and that means running the ball. On defense, the need is to seal the outside and win the war of linemen inside. 

The Vineyarders will miss senior captain Justin Chin (leg) on D, but the Purple learned late this week that brawny senior Hoffie Hearn and junior running back Oscar Shepherd, talented two-way players will return from injury to play today. Continued good ball distribution by junior QB Zach Smith is key. If Hunter Meader gets holes inside big enough to thunder through and Antone Moreis continues his crazy-good outside and slant runs, then Jayden Coyle, Brayden Sayles and Ty Mathew are increased threats inside and outside and the Vineyarders have their best chance to grab the Cup back.