The Island spring football season is over, not with a bang, but a whimper.
The much-awaited 41st annual Island Cup football game between Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School (MVRHS) and Nantucket High School (NHS) was canceled Tuesday after a COVID-related quarantine following the Vineyarder game against Old Rochester Regional High School (ORR) last Saturday. An ORR offensive player tested positive early this week.
As a result, the entire Purple defense has been quarantined according to COVID protocols, and MVRHS is unable to field a team — since many Vineyarder defenders also play major roles in the offense.
Downhearted Head Coach Don Herman broke the news Tuesday in a phone call to the Times: “I just feel terrible for our kids who worked so hard this year, and particularly for the 11 seniors who have overcome so much in their four years.
“As freshmen, the final two games of their season were canceled. I came the following year, and they endured a 2-9 rebuilding year. Last season we had some success, and the Cup game would have been a nice capstone for them. I really think we could have handled Nantucket,” he said, noting that all-everything running back and receiver Antone Moreis had finally been cleared to play in his first game of the season.
So the Vineyarders finish at 2-3, and the Whalers, whose game was COVID-canceled last Saturday, finish at 1-2.
The Vineyarders closed out their season with a disappointing loss to ORR Saturday at Dan McCarthy Field in Oak Bluffs.
Before taking on the Bulldogs, then 1-2 on the season, Coach Herman said, “ORR has been a quality opponent for us for years in several sports, including football. It’s generally a tough game.“
It did begin as a tussle, with ORR taking a 7-6 first-half lead, after a gritty and successful Vineyard goal line stand to end the first half. Second half, not so much. ORR blew it wide open in the third quarter, scoring four times on three TDs and a safety. Bulldog quarterback Ryyn Thomas had three TDs, two running and one passing.
Christian Turner scored in the first quarter’s opening minutes with a close-in plunge. Braden Sayles caught a 10-yard pass from Atlas Zack (heir apparent to senior QB Zach Smith) with the game clock expiring, for the Vineyarders’ final points.
“We had that nice goal line stand to end the first half, then nothing. Turnovers, no offense, poor field position. I’d have to say ORR is a better program than we are at this point,” Herman said.
Although Herman wanted to come out of the game healthy, he noted first- and second-quarter lower-body injuries to senior stalwart David Butkowsky and to Owen Amodio.
This is not Herman’s first rodeo, and though he was not thrilled, he knew, down 30-6 in the third, he had time to work in newer players. He did, and it showed up on both sides of the ball. For example, Luciano Baldwin and T.J. Lett have been emerging, and they led the Vineyarders in rushing with 52 yards for Baldwin and 44 yards for Lett. Oscar Shepherd had 37 yards, and sophomore Turner 20 yards to go with his touchdown.
On defense, a season-high 17 players had tackling credits. Hunter Meader had double-digit tackles (11) again, to lead the D. Alex Calverly had nine stops, and Owen Mettell had eight with a sack. Shepherd also had eight tackles and a fumble recovery. Add in names like Turner, Lett, Von-Trai Porter (six tackles), Chase Grant, and Quinn Littlefield, and the young defenders are getting significant game experience.