More than 2,000 fans were on hand last Saturday to watch the Vineyarders harpoon the Nantucket Whalers 34-0, winning a third consecutive Island Cup for the first time since the trophy was created in 1978.
By halftime of last Saturday's game, with Vineyard's 34 points already on the board, the battle was apparently over. In the second half, spectators - bundled in jackets and hats to block the northeast wind - began to converse with their peers rather than pay particular attention to the game.
The margin of victory was the largest for the Vineyard against Nantucket since their 36-0 win Nov. 22, 1963.
The squad made Islanders proud and raised everyone's spirits. Island families breaking bread on Thanksgiving have one more thing to be grateful for - after the holiday week, the football team will take to its home field to host the first ever playoff game on-Island, against West Roxbury at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 27.
From the start of the opening ceremony, the Island Cup sat on the Vineyarders' bench, its polished silver gleaming in the sun. During the playing of the national anthem, a Navy plane flew above, emitting a trail of white smoke as it made two circular passes high above the green field.
Fire engines and ambulances were parked behind the end zone nearest the road, sirens wailing and horns belching. Spectators clapped, shouted and rang cowbells. The noise rose like a wave and spilled onto the field once Vineyard's Ben Gunn sent the pigskin in a high arc into Whaler territory.
Nantucket's first possession was a prelude to what Island fans desired. The Whalers' offense, starting at their own 46-yard line, gained no yardage and on third down lost one yard. It was as close as Nantucket's offense would come to the end zone for the remainder of the game.
Nantucket punted with 8:45 remaining in the first quarter. Starting from their own 30, the Vineyarders scored in less than four minutes, on 10 plays. The purple drove downfield with fluidity and grace, as if the team could do anything it willed.
The first drive featured the usual offensive threats: Keith Crossland, Tim Higgins, J.D. Wild and Ben Gunn. Quarterback Crossland ran the ball twice and passed four times, including the touchdown pass crowning the march. Gunn made his first catch of the game. Wild ran the ball twice, and Higgins ran twice and made three catches, the last one as he strolled untouched into the Whalers' end zone.
Nantucket gained its only first down of the game in its second possession. Then, with the Whalers forced to punt on fourth down, Chris Brown charged in, putting his hands within a hair's breadth of the ball's trajectory. The punt was short, and the Vineyarders began the second drive on Nantucket's 40-yard line.
Again commanding the field, Crossland was chased by the Whalers as he rolled left before throwing a pass deep inside the end zone. Ted Desrosiers, amid blanket coverage, leapt and caught the ball in his extended hands.
Crossland had led the team to a 14-0 lead by quarter's end with 6-for-7 passing for 74 yards and two touchdowns. In the second quarter, he was removed from the quarterback position and played safety and punt returner.
Eric McCarthy, playing in his first home game since returning from an injury, led the offense to score on three of Vineyard's four possessions in the second quarter. McCarthy was 2-for-5, passing for 31 yards and one touchdown in the second and third quarters.
After punting on its first possession in the second quarter, Vineyard's offense quickly regained the ball. Nantucket's Jason McWade, feeling the rush of the special teams at his throat, fumbled the ball and Desrosiers recovered it. The Vineyarders began the drive on the Whalers 45-yard line with 5:52 remaining in the half.
On second down, Higgins broke two tackles before being thrown out of bounds after a 31-yard gain, one of his 13 carries for 79 yards on the day. The drive ended with Wild's 10-yard touchdown run. After a missed extra point attempt, the Vineyarders led 20-0.
The defense, led by Justin Chapman's nine tackles, shut down Nantucket's offense once again. McCarthy was on the field for the third drive of the quarter with 2:24 remaining in the half. Beginning inside the Whalers' territory, Vineyard fought hard to get to the 7-yard line. Wild forced the ball across the goal line, and for the two-point conversion Ben Gunn took the pigskin into the end zone on a reversal.
With just 43 seconds to play in the half, the Island was up 28-0. But the Vineyarders were not satisfied just yet. Once again, Nantucket fumbled the kickoff and once again Desrosiers recovered it.
With 11 seconds on the clock on second down, McCarthy sailed the ball 26 yards into the hands of a wide-open Desrosiers for a touchdown. The extra point was blocked.
After two touchdowns and two fumble recoveries, Desrosiers injured his ankle in the second half; he'll miss the remainder of the season as a result. Coach Donald Herman nevertheless lauded the injured junior for a "breakout game."
After the game, Coach Herman talked with Nantucket coach Vito Capizzo. "The coach told me you cannot win turning the ball over four times," said Coach Herman. "I agreed. He made the point that his team was young, but so is our team."
In fact, only three seniors played on offense and three on defense.
"It was a great win," said Coach Herman, "and now we are looking forward to West Roxbury."
The Raiders, out of the Boston North league, are undefeated at 9-0. Their strengths are two running backs who can fight through tackles and an aggressive defense.
"We are going in against West Roxbury about even," said Coach Herman. "The players are confident and in good shape for the game."
A win against the Raiders would send Vineyard to the Division 6 Super Bowl, to be played at Bentley College in Waltham. The opposing team will be determined when Marian faces off against the winner of yesterday's game between Georgetown and Manchester.
In the day's other games, the junior high school football team beat Nantucket 28-0, and the junior varsity game ended 0-0. The Whalers left the Island scoreless in all three games.