The script for homecoming weekend was not followed as planned. The Vineyarders were supposed to beat Nantucket and then celebrate with a victory dance at the high school. The dance was a success, but the Vineyarders were on the losing end of a 25 to 0 football game on a gloomy Saturday in a freezing, 30-knot gale.
Of course, for Nantucket it might as well have been Miami Beach. The win put them in third place in the Mayflower League with a 6 and 4 record. The Vineyard finished the season 4 and 6, which is quite respectable.
The fondest memories of the season were the Apponequet game and the goal line stands that the never-say-die team trademarked. Despite the loss to Nantucket, it was a good year.
The homecoming festivities for the game were enjoyable despite the weather. Big Bird enchanted the children who were bundled in snow suits and hats. Joan Rolston was probably the warmest person there under all the yellow fur. Bob Nute rounded up some warm fingers for a band in the stands and the Vineyard fan turnout was estimated at 600.
The team decided to honor the mother of the seniors. Four white roses were presented to the mothers of Marc Rivers, Mike Sylvia, Jeff Canha, Billy Cummings, Tim Creato, Bubba Rudolph, David Medeiros, Jim Dario and Richard Roy. The state house representatives from both Islands met and agreed to provide the winning team with a Thanksgiving turkey. The teams were introduced player by player, and the Nantucket band members thawed out their hands long enough to play the national anthem.
Then it was time for the big game. The teams met at the middle of the field. The Vineyarders were chanting “YOU, YOU, YOU...” and then “WHALERS, WHALERS, WHALERS” in an effort to get the adrenaline rolling. Nantucket won the toss.
Mary McCarron led the charge call on the trumpet. Lois DeBettencourt had her bell and fog horn, and mentioned that she had a drum in the trunk of her car in case more noise was needed.
Darren Lobdell kicked off into the crosswind. Receiver Joe Perry ran the ball back to the Whalers 25 yard line and the game was underway.
On the first play the Whalers were called for holding. On the first 20 they executed a running play and were stopped by Rivers and Dario. Billy Cummings stopped Perry on the next play and it was third down and 19.
Nantucket coach Vito Capizzo always has a weird play up his sleeve. He told his players to punt on third down and the Vineyarders were not prepared for this. The Vineyarders took over the ball on their 43 yard line.
The next two series of plays resulted in fumbles, one by the Vineyard and one by Nantucket, the latter recovered by Billy Cummings. Two plays later the Vineyarders had their first down of the game on a Lobdell to Davey Araujo pass play.
The team was at was at midfield and Captain Jim Dario was called to run on the next play. It turned out to be his last play of the game: he suffered a broken ankle and was taken to the hospital.
The first quarter ended with no score. The second quarter started off right for Nantucket. They blocked a punt and had first and goal from the 5 yard line. The Vineyarders held them until it was fourth down and 2 inches to go. It’s kind of hard to defend that, and soon the score was 6 to 0 Nantucket. The successful two point conversion made the score 8 to 0.
The Vineyarders were on the receiving end of the kickoff and Marc Rivers ran it back 20 yards. On the next play Darren Lobdell was nearly sacked, as he was all afternoon. The offensive line could not contain the blitz. It was second and 14 when Lobdell dumped a pass over the middle to Rivers, who escaped a tackle and ran for a 40-yard gain. The momentum seemed to go with the Purple and White. They had a first down on the Nantucket 20 yard line. They were also a little anxious on the next play and were called for being offsides.
It brought up a passing situation and Lobdell never quite had enough time to get set and find a receiver. Two incompletions later he was intercepted and the Whalers drove 85 yards downfield for the second touchdown of the game. It was 16 to 0 with the Perry dive for the end zone on the point-after play.
The Vineyarders again started a drive that ended up in a turnover, this time a fumble. Time was running out in the half and Nantucket booted a field goal. It was then 19 to 0 as the fans mobbed the concession stand for hot coffee, chowder and cider. Cora Medeiros and her crew of chefs did a remarkable job all season long, and should be applauded.
The cheerleaders took the field for a halftime show. The Vineyarders cheerleaders looked good in their sweaters and purple kilts. They deserve purple hearts for making it through the game with bare legs.
The second half of the game was much the same as the first. The offense for the home team couldn’t keep things going. They would control the ball, benefit from Nantucket penalties, complete passes, gain first downs and then fumble or be intercepted. It was frustrating for both the team and fans. Nantucket scored another touchdown after they blocked a punt and 25 to 0 proved to be the final score of the afternoon.
The team took the loss well. They had played well and had been the victim of some bad breaks. The season was a good one, and it was over for the seniors. The handshaking among the players was an example of respect and genuine sportsmanship. There must have been thoughts of a warm gymnasium and the bouncing of basketballs. It won’t be long.