Even before Vineyarder senior and cheerleader Gracie Scheller’s customized version of the national anthem wafted over Dan McCarthy field Saturday night, a full house was amped up for a special game.
They got one. The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School gridders lost 8-6 in overtime but this one felt like they won the character game — games in which you compete within yourself as much as against the other team.
The Vineyarders won that contest, refusing to concede in a smashmouth game played in the trenches all night against a much bigger Salem High School squad. A heartstopping moment occurred late in the third quarter when featured back Ty Mathew went down after being tackled.
Mathew lay still for a moment and was later transported by ambulance for treatment, coach Don Herman told the Times.
The Vineyarders are quicker than the Witches but Salem features sophomore Corey Grimes, a 250-pound quarterback/running back who was able and willing to trudge forward with players on his back or to throw and catch the ball. Grimes shares the backfield with strong-armed senior QB Michael Ready and speed back Jariel DelValle.
Seven other Witches weigh as much or more than Grimes so it was an “Uh-Oh” moment as well before the opening whistle. But the MVRHS bunch stood up to the task.
Defensively, 13 players made 51 tackles to shut down Salem offensively. Alec Calverley led with 11, Kaleb Hatt had 7, and Luke Baldwin and Gabe Brito had 6 each. Jayden Coyle had 5 stops, Kaio Pereira, and Hunter Hearn had four stops each. Christian Turner (3), Hiaggo Goncalves (2) and Frankie Paciello, Brendon Wood and Chase Grant all had a tackle.
We expect plays like Jayden Coyle made in space to stuff a sweep and end a Salem drive but others stepped up on Saturday, including Turner, Wood and Grant with critical stops and sophomore Gerry Kane playing well in his first varsity game experience.
The team’s defensive effort was noteworthy because of their durability and willingness to match Salem’s smashmouth O-line for the entire game.
Offensively, there was a sense that the Vineyarders would be successful if their speed guys could operate in space. While they pulled off several chunk plays from scrimmage and on kick and punt returns, the Purple passing game was off-kilter, quarterback Zack Atlas and receivers were often not on the same page.
For example, a promising Vineyarder drive ended with Salem interception at their goal line as a result of crossed signals between Atlas and receivers.
Losing Mathew was a key to the outcome. The speedy and elusive Coyle/Mathew tandem was effective. Salem often had a devil of a time keeping track of them. Mathew had 45 yards on 11 carries when he went down. Coyle had 32 yards on the ground and another 25 receiving on a tumbling first half catch in Salem territory. Goncalves, Baldwin, and Turner stepped up. Combining for 34 yards on 12 carries.
At the end of the day, penalties, not Salem’s strength and size, defeated the Purple on Saturday, smothering offensive drives or keeping the Vineyarder D on the field after apparently stopping Salem.
“I can’t be disappointed in the level of effort they gave us on Saturday night. We played hard all night. Not always played smart but the effort was there. We have improved so much from the Seekonk game last week,”Herman said on Sunday morning.
While overtime games are rare, Herman said the Vineyarders have now played in five OT games since 1988, with a record of 2-3.
This edition of the Vineyarders will make you crazy, but after Saturday’s effort you gotta love them. The Vineyarders are at home through Oct. 30, Herman said. They play Capitol Preparatory Academy of Harlem (NY) on Friday at 6 pm at Dan McCarthy Field, a game Herman scheduled as a result of a referral by MVRHS principal Sarah Dingledy, who previously worked in New York City schools.
Updated with more details.