Learning to win in the age of COVID

MVRHS gridders kick off spring season on Sunday

The Vineyarder offense goes through drills at practice in preparation for Sunday's season opener. — Jeremy Driesen

Vineyarder football is readying for the six-game spring season opener Sunday morning on the road against Sandwich High School (11:30 am kickoff), but the team and coaches have been wrestling a tough COVID foe along the way.

“Yeah, it’s been tough; the staff and players spend way more time managing COVID requirements and protocols than on football,” Head Coach Don Herman said last week. But that’s life in the COVID era. “Every school is dealing with the same circumstances, so it’s a level playing field in that aspect.”

COVID aside, Herman is excited by the onfield possibilities for his charges. Final rosters have not been set, but Herman has senior quarterback Zach Smith (committed to Hamilton College in New York), with top performers Antone Moreis, Hunter Meader, and Braden Sayles, to rely on, though Moreis and probably Meader will miss the opener because of COVID-related protocols.

Team captains are Smith, Sayles, and defensive stalwarts Brian Torres and David Butkowski. Herman likes his squad, particularly in light of plans for a full fall schedule beginning in September.

“We had 47 kids turn out, the largest group in five or six years, including a strong freshman group,” Herman said. His hunch is COVID may have contributed to the high numbers. “COVID has been tough on the kids. You can see it academically and athletically. This is a chance for kids to re-engage athletically and socially interact with their peers. With hybrid learning and reduced athletic schedules, a lot of kids haven’t had much of either since last March,” he said.

The Vineyarders have scrimmaged twice, against Randolph last Wednesday and at Mashpee on Saturday. Herman liked what he saw against Randolph. “Zach Smith and Ty Mathew had good games. We were dominated by Mashpee last Saturday. We only played two quarters, and we subbed in new kids a lot, but Mashpee was dominant, and our vets played below expectations, though junior linebacker Owen Amodio, a down-linemen-turned-linebacker, and junior defenders Jayden Coyle and Alec Calverly, impressed,” Herman said. “Camp Herman will begin this week at practice.”

New protocols have been adopted by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA), Herman noted. “No fans are allowed at away games, but each player will have two guests at home games, right, as the [MIAA] did during hockey season. Players are required to wear masks, timeouts will be two minutes rather than one minute, in addition to a two-minute break each quarter, and a shortened halftime break,” he said.

Players are tested weekly, and a player who misses the test is ineligible for the next game. Players must have participated in 14 practices to be eligible for game competition.

But one thing is the same. There will be a spring season-ending game on April 24 at Nantucket if COVID cooperates.

The complete 2021 Vineyarder football schedule follows:

Sunday, March 14, at Sandwich

Saturday, March 20, at Monomoy

Saturday, March 27, Sandwich at home

Saturday, April 4, St. John Paul II at home

Saturday, April 10, Monomoy at home

Saturday, April 17, at Nantucket 


Starting times for the final five games have not been announced.