The Vineyard varsity football team rolled over Nantucket by a score of 31-6 Saturday, winning on Nantucket soil for only the third time since 1978 in a contest whose outcome was never really in doubt.
From the beginning to end, last year’s Island Cup champions controlled the game, holding their opponents defensively and blowing past them on offense.
“It was total domination,” said head coach Donald Herman, who has described his team’s past 20 and 30-point shutouts as fair and even downright bad performances.
But no one who made the two-hour ferry pilgrimage Saturday to watch one of the most legendary contests in high school football could argue with the coach’s words.
Racking up a total of 353 offensive yards, the Vineyarders held Nantucket to just 82, allowing them one touchdown after a fumble recovered by the Whalers on the Vineyard 14-yard line. In the second half, the Whalers possessed the ball for less than five minutes total and never managed a first down.
Whaler superstar Alex Richardson, who had 1,228 yards in nine games, an average of 136 yards per game, was held to 28 yards on eight carries.
“He was a nonfactor,” Mr. Herman said. “But it wasn’t him, it was us.”
Even before the opening kickoff, the home team was already at a disadvantage, facing their rivals in the biggest game of the season with a team decimated by suspensions due to contract violations regarding substance abuse. 
Of the original 21 on Nantucket’s varsity squad, 10 were serving suspensions at game time, three of them senior starters. The Whalers dressed a total of only 19 players Saturday, including 11 original members of the squad and another eight pulled up from the junior varsity. 
Injuries on the field also worked against Nantucket, which lost three of its starters to concussions, including linebacker Anthony Colletti, the core of the defense. Colletti, whom Mr. Herman had previously called “a real force,” was lost to a concussion in the first minutes of the second quarter and sat out the remainder of the game, forcing a reshaping of the Nantucket defensive line that left Vineyard receivers covered but did little to contain the likes of Jeff Lynch, Tim Higgins and James Haggerty, each of whom rushed for more yardage than the entire Nantucket team.
“At that point we felt real good about what we were going to do offensively,” said Mr. Herman, remembering Nantucket’s defensive adjustment early in the second quarter. “They overcompensated outside and left themselves open in the middle. We didn’t have to throw the ball.”
Injuries aside, further working against the home team was the near-perfect performance of the Vineyarders, who continued to dominate the game even after the second string had replaced most of the starting line.
From the beginning, it was obvious the Whalers had a big problem on their hands. After the Vineyard marched 62 yards down the field, three minutes and forty seconds into the game, Tim Higgins was first to score with an 18-yard drive into the end zone. An extra point attempt by Geoff Phillips was unsuccessful.
That’s when the Whalers caught their only break of the game, recovering a fumble on the Vineyard 13 and scoring on a run by Mike Lindley. That left the game tied at 6-6 with 4:37 left in the first quarter. It was the last time the Whalers would score and the start of what Mr. Herman described as “a smashmouth football game.”
With 9:08 in the second quarter, Nantucket fumbled a kickoff and lost possession of the ball at the Vineyard 31. Lynch was first to drive the ball down the field, shaking off three Whaler tacklers before being pushed out of bounds at the 16.
Higgins carried next, making his way through the thinly-spread middle of the Whaler defense before being stopped at the one. Quarterback Kyle Crossland sealed the deal with 7:32 on the clock, plowing through a sandcastle of defenders to give his team the lead with the quarterÕs only touchdown. Junior Max Eagan completed the two-point conversion, giving the Vineyarders a lead of 14-6.
A nearly identical touchdown play followed in the third quarter, with a one-yard push by Lynch into the end zone with 2:41 on the clock. An extra point by Phillips made the score 19-6 with the VineyardersÕ most productive quarter left to play, the offensive line now dominated by the varsityÕs second string.
Four minutes into the final quarter, Eagan scored again, neatly catching a 13-yard pass from Crossland, the only touchdown pass of the afternoon.
The final scoring play of the game, a 25-yard field goal by Phillips with 2:22 remaining, has kicked up some dust between the two coaches.
“I felt they rubbed our nose in it a little bit,” said Vito Capizzo, head coach for the Whalers. “But the Vineyarders were the more supreme team. We hung on until the half, and I thought maybe we could keep it close, but it’s just been one of those years.”
Mr. Herman defended the decision.
“It was great Geoff Phillips was able to kick a field goal,” he said. “We had our number two offense in at that time, and they moved the ball down the field. We were just a better team, and that’s okay because they’ve done it to us before.
“I’m a big believer in what goes around comes around, and it was just so great, getting to see that feeling they all had. It was a great ending to what was not such a good week for me personally.”
He credited sophomores Ted Desrosier, Bubba Bergeron and James Cimeno in particular with performing at a level above their age and experience, but he said the entire team played at an exceptional level, peaking at the best possible time in a season that once looked bleak due to a heavy loss of seniors and a shrunken offensive line.
The fans, Coach Herman added, were an essential part of sealing what has been only his second victory on Nantucket soil.
“We had just as many people from the Vineyard,” he said. “And that really makes a difference, to walk out on that field and see all of the people there.”
Saturday’s victory marked the second consecutive Island Cup and Mayflower Large titles for the Vineyarders and bought the team tickets to the Division V Super Bowl for the state championship.
The team will have a week’s rest before the Dec. 3rd match against Bellingham at Boston University.