Photo by Mark Alan Lovewell
 
They completed an 11-0 season. They are league champions. And they have already danced with a trophy over their heads in front of a home crowd. Yet, there is still one element needed before the Vineyard high school football team can call this a perfect season. 
 
A Super Bowl victory.
 
By recapturing the Island Cup on Saturday with a 21-8 win over the Nantucket Whalers, the Vineyard clinched the Mayflower Large league title and an invitation to the Division 5 Super Bowl. On Dec. 6 at 1 p.m., the Vineyard will face Westwood, winner of the Tri-Valley league, at Bridgewater State College. The Vineyard learned yesterday that Westwood will be served for Super Bowl supper after that school topped Holliston on Thanksgiving Day and ended their regular season with a 7-1 league record (8-2 overall).
 
An estimated 3,000 people attended the 51st game last weekend between the two Island rivals. Cold, wet conditions didn’t dampen play or the enthusiasm of the home crowd. Beating drums and blowing horns, they celebrated each hit, each pass and each Whaler play the Vineyard stopped.
 
“Nantucket is a quality football team, but what can you say - our kids just played better,” said Vineyard head coach Donald Herman after the game. “We adjusted where we had to. And I knew they were going to try to use size to their advantage, but I’ll take quickness over size any day.”
 
As expected, the Vineyard offense immediately looked to Ben Higgins, who ended the day with 155 yards on 27 carries. Higgins scored the first six points on a short run with 6:38 left in the first quarter. Peter Lambos added the extra point.
 
Just when it looked like the Vineyard would end the half with a one-touchdown lead, they called a gutsy halfback pass play. Quarterback Mike Snowden pitched the ball to Higgins, who then lofted the ball to Ben Connelly with 17 seconds remaining. Lambos added another point, giving the Vineyard a comfortable 14-0 lead at the half.
 
“We saw something open, but it was a matter of executing it,” said Mr. Herman. “Higgins threw the best pass we’ve seen all year. It doesn’t matter what you call, all the kids have to execute, which they did.”
 
Despite the Vineyard’s late second quarter touchdown, Nantucket appeared determined going into the second half. They pushed the ball down the field and then scored their first six points when junior quarterback Alex Trebby hit senior receiver Travis Lombardi on a 17-yard touchdown pass following a 78-yard drive. Chris Gardner then found Tris Gauvin on a conversion pass, making the game 14-8.
 
The Vineyard defense maintained high pressure, eventually forcing several Whaler mistakes. Trebby was hit hard while running the option, popping the ball out of his hands and into those of Vineyard inside linebacker Andrew Nourse, who strolled into the end zone with 1:41 left in the game. Lambos added another extra point and then sealed the victory on the Whalers’ next possession with an intercepted pass.
 
“I was proud of the way we played, but we crucified ourselves,” said Nantucket head coach Vito Capizzo. “This season we have a tendency to shoot ourselves in the foot. That touchdown before the half really killed us. But hey, we’ve won four times and it’s time for the Vineyard to go. I would rather see the Vineyard go than another Mayflower league team, but next year we’re going to kick their butts.”
 
Before the game started, there was considerable uncertainty as to when the Nantucket team would arrive. When the Vineyard neared completion of its pregame exercises, the Whalers ran on the field screaming and waving the Island Cup and a skull and crossbones flag. The zoo continued as Vineyard police cruisers and fire engines paraded through the parking lot with sirens wailing, leaving behind a hook and ladder with a large “Go Vineyarders” flagged attached.
 
The loss gives the Whalers an 8-3 record and marks the first time in five years they won’t play in the Super Bowl. This was only the fifth time since 1978 that the Vineyard topped Nantucket and earned the Island Cup. The last time the Vineyard played in the Super Bowl was in 1992, when they topped Latin Academy 18-14 in a hard-fought, soggy contest. 
 
“It’s a big, big monkey off our backs,” said Mr. Herman. “One of my personal goals was to go undefeated, so there was a lot of pressure on us on top of just playing Nantucket. The kids were feeling it. So this is a big win for us all. “
 
Coach Herman also noted that avoiding mistakes helped the Vineyard secure the victory. During the regular season, the Vineyard had 19 touchdowns called back because of penalties. No points were lost against the Whalers.