As Vineyard coach Don Herman arrived at Nantucket’s football field carrying the Island Cup last Saturday, a couple of fans wearing Nantucket sweatshirts jokingly offered to take it from him. Coach Herman smiled politely, clutched the Cup a little tighter, and kept walking.
Nantucket’s team was finally able to wrest the Cup from the coach’s grasp, but it took all 40 minutes of the game to do so. In a brave effort, the Vineyarders came back from a 21-6 halftime deficit to tie the game before Nantucket prevailed by the final score of 27-21.
Turnovers and poor special teams play spelled defeat for the Vineyarders. Following a scoreless first quarter, Ryan McCarthy intercepted a pass that led to a 2-yard scoring run by Seth Abbott seven plays later. But the Vineyarders immediately relinquished the lead when Nantucket’s Porter Fraker returned the subsequent kickoff 65 yards for a touchdown. After a 2-point conversion, Nantucket led 8-7.
The Vineyarders continued to stumble on the next kickoff as they fumbled the return on their own 26-yard line. It took Nantucket 10 plays to drive the ball from there into the end zone, on a 2-yard run by quarterback Alex Trebby.
Although the Vineyarders contained running back Chris Gardner to only 64 yards on 21 carries, and often forced bad throws from Trebby (4-16 for 81 yards, plus 2 interceptions), they found themselves down by a touchdown with under a minute to go in the half.
On their next possession, instead of sitting on the ball to end the half, the Vineyarders made an ill-advised attempt to pass, resulting in quarterback Mike Snowden’s second interception. Two plays later, Nantucket had scored again, and the Vineyard went to the locker room down by 21-7.
Or rather, they went and stood at the end of the football field. Nantucket does not have a locker room for visiting teams. And while Nantucket yelled and banged on walls and generally made a ruckus in their locker room before returning to the field, it was the Vineyarders’ turn to dominate play in the third quarter.
The Vineyard repeatedly forced Nantucket into 3-and-out situations while scoring twice to even the ball game at 21 points apiece. Snowden threw for one touchdown, a 27-yarder to Jeff Lynch, and ran for the other on a 12-yard dive into the left corner of the end zone. At this point, the Vineyard fans who had made the trip were going wild.
With the season on the line for both teams, Nantucket got the ball back and drove to the Vineyard 15-yard line. On a fourth-and-7 play with 2:51 showing on the clock, Nantucket's Trebby was intercepted by Jade Cash, who brought the ball out of the end zone to the 5-yard line.
The Vineyarders, however, were unable to advance, and were forced to punt the ball back to Nantucket. Nantucket coach Vito Capizzo responded by calling for the same play four times in a row, and quarterback Trebby twice found Porter Fraker, the second time on a 16-yard pass lofted high into the back corner of the end zone. Nantucket missed the extra point, but they now held the lead with only 1:40 left in the game.
The Vineyarders, led by three completions in a row from Snowden, tried valiantly to come from behind yet again, but this time they fell short. Jordan Seitz intercepted Snowden for the third time, and Nantucket was able to run out the clock after a first-down conversion by Chris Gardner.
This game was a heart-breaker, especially for those who have now played in their last high school football game. But Snowden and the other seniors should be proud of the winning record compiled by the team and the thrills they gave their fans as they came storming back in the last game of the season.
As for the younger members of the team, they can look forward to a bright future with a team that is losing only seven seniors. Jeff Lynch’s big game on Saturday (five catches for 88 yards, one touchdown) showed why Vineyard coaches are excited at the prospect of his return, and dominant players like Seth Abbott and James Hale will anchor a defense that promises to be overpowering next year.
“We’re excited about the possibilities for next year,” said Coach Herman. “The players will have to commit themselves in the off-season, but our potential is very strong.”
Remembering how close they came this year, the Vineyard players will have plenty of motivation as they prepare for next season.