The Vineyard football team passed its second test of the season on Saturday, defeating a dangerous opponent on the road in Carver High School by 14-0 to remain undefeated on the young season.
For the second week in a row, the Vineyarders found themselves locked in a tight battle to bitter end. After beating Old Rochester 7-0 in their home opener last week, the Vineyarders on Saturday again led only a single score going into the fourth quarter when Nick Viera scored on a 45-yard punt return to seal the win.
Coach Donald Herman said Carver was a scary opponent for several reasons. For starters, they defeated perennial powerhouse Apponequet last week and were playing in their home opener. In addition, the Vineyarders crushed the Crusaders last year in their home opener by a final of 44-25, and the visitors were clearly planning payback on Saturday.
“You could tell they were pretty well motivated before the game . . . they wanted to beat us,” coach Herman said. “They were coming off a big win and were hungry; so I think it really says something we were able to shut them down like we did.”
Just as the Vineyarders’ defense shut down Old Rochester last week, the team on Saturday kept Carver from getting anything going either on the ground or through the air. The Crusaders crossed the fifty-yard line only twice all game, and the Vineyarders’ secondary completely shut down their aerial attack.
Ben Rossi and Nick Fogt each intercepted Crusader quarterback Kevin Jellison. Bubba Brown — who returned to the team this year after missing all of last season with a broken leg — anchored the defense with eight tackles and a quarterback sack.
Jeff Osborn, who seems to be involved in every big play on defense, had a big fumble recovery in the second half which turned back what might have been a key Crusader drive.
While Coach Herman said the defense on Saturday passed a “solid test,” he said the grade for the offense would be an incomplete at this point of the season. The coaching staff has had to plug holes on the offensive line, and the running game still appears to be a work in progress.
Although coach Herman heralded Josh Paulson and his 96 yards in Saturday’s game, he said the offensive line still isn’t where it needs to be.
“Josh [Paulson] put on a show, he played very well . . . but many of those yards were all him. We didn’t block well and we didn’t open a lot of holes,” the coach said.
The Vineyarders scored their first touchdown on a 77-yard drive late in the second quarter when Paulson scampered in from three yards out to give them a 7-0 edge, a score that held up through the third and fourth quarters. The game remained in question until the final minutes, when the Vineyarders pushed the Crusaders back to their one-yard line and tackled Jellison for what appeared to be a safety.
The referees thought otherwise, and gave the Crusaders the ball on the one-yard line, forcing them to punt from the back of the end zone. The punt bounced twice around midfield before Viera picked it up and rocketed down an open lane along the sideline opened by great blocking by Osborn and Matt Lucier.
“It was a special play for Nick [Viera], but it was also a product of some solid blocking,” coach Herman said.
Coach Herman said he will make some changes on offense before this week’s game at Lee High School. Matt Lucier will be moved to fullback or tight end depending on the formation, and junior Matt Costello will see time at running back. Osborn and Erik Doliver will still run the ball, but adding Lucier and Costello to the mix will give the team some different looks and more options, the coach said.
“We’re still looking for the best combination of running and blocking; we want to try some different things,” the coach said.
As for their next opponent, coach Herman admits he knows little about Lee High School, which is in western Massachusetts. The coach said he scheduled the game in the off-season after calling about forty other high schools.
“I know a little about their defense and their offense. And I know the school is located off exit 2 on the Mass. Pike — if you miss it you’ll wind up somewhere in New York,” he said.
The game is at 7 p.m. on Friday night at Lee High and will be broadcast on radio on WMVY radio 92.7 FM.