The Island Cup will stay on Nantucket, as the Whalers defeated Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School 27-7, taking a 21-20 lead in the series since the teams began playing for the coveted trophy in 1978.
The Whalers, 5-2, and now in the state championship playoff mix, got all they wanted from the Vineyarders for three quarters before their talent and depth put it out of reach in the fourth quarter.
The Purple (in their road whites) shocked Nantucket early, scoring on the first drive of the day. Hiaggo Goncalves had a 55-yard bolt down the sidelines on the fourth play of the contest, setting the Vineyarders up at the Nantucket eight-yard line. Two Goncalves runs later and a Gabe Brito point after, and the Vineyard led 7-0.
“It’s a little surprising, and it’s suddenly quiet here,” Nantucket Community TV (NCTV) broadcaster Chris Morris intoned after the score. NCTV and MVTV produced an impressive live broadcast of the Cup game, complete with a drone eye-in-the-sky camera.
The mood in Vito Capizzi Stadium changed quickly when the multiheaded Whaler offense got the ball.
In their second play from scrimmage, Cup MVP Justin Bloise took a lateral at the edge from sophomore quarterback Carlos Aguilar, and outran everybody for a 59-yard score. Game tied, 7-7, five minutes into the first quarter.
Nantucket’s big-play offense added another Bloise 40-yard TD in the second quarter after an MVRHS fumble, and was driving for a third TD late in the second quarter until Gabe Brito picked off a long bomb in the end zone to hold the Whalers lead at 13-7 going into the locker room at halftime.
No question this was still anyone’s game. Vineyarder Coach Donald Herman used the clock to his advantage, taking maximum time between plays, and only calling offensive plays after he viewed the Whaler defensive setup.
In the opening series, the Vineyarders featured star back Jayden Coyle, who was getting lots of Whaler attention, before switching to Goncalves. Through the first quarter and half of the second, the Vineyarders controlled the ball for nearly 12 of the 18 minutes played.
But it was a high-wire act for the Vineyarders. They had to make defensive stops against a big- talent veteran team (15 seniors) running a sophisticated offense that included double handoffs, play options, and misdirection and speed to burn. The Whaler speed made Vneyarders miss tackles inside and on sweeps.
Coach Don Herman clearly was proud of his team. “Our kids played their best football, and as hard as they could. I’m proud of the effort on Saturday against a four-headed monster offense. Nantucket is a better team than we are right now.
“But really, since the second half of the Nauset scrimmage on Oct. 15, we have been playing good football. We have three games left, and the kids will determine whether we have a 4-5, a 1-8, or something-in-between season,” he said.
The stat sheet bears Herman out. While the passing game, 0-2 with a couple of sacks, struggled, the Purple ran for 136 yards on the ground from four ball carriers (Goncalves, Coyle, Brito, and Calverly). Also, the offense ran 36 plays from scrimmage, above their season average, and had 136 yards on the ground.
On defense, a dozen defenders showed up on the stat sheet, led by Kaleb Hatt (11 tackles) and Luke Baldwin (10). Alec Calverley had seven stops, followed by Harper Hearn and Goncalves with six each. Jayden Coyle and Gabe Brito (also an interception) had five tackles, T.J. Lett four, Chase Grant and Chistian Turner three, Miguel Jarillo two, and Jordan Sauza one.
Importantly, the Vineyarders also played with discipline, amassing only two penalties while avoiding the chippy infractions that plagued the Whalers (five penalties).
Sunday was the 72nd game between Nantucket and the Vineyarders since the rivalry began in 1953. Nantucket holds a 39-30 edge, with three ties.
The 2021 Island Cup capped a day of inter-island rivalry. Earlier in the day, the Nantucket eighth-grade gridders defeated Martha’s Vineyard, 26-8. Boys and girls soccer each fell to the Whalers, 1-0 and 3-2, respectively, but the field hockey team prevented a Nantucket sweep with a 2-1 win.
Friday evening, the Vineyard gridders play St. John Paul II at the Sandwich Pop Warner Field. Kickoff is at 5:30 pm.