The Island Cup is a treasure shared by two Islands. Though tarnished, occasionally dropped and frequently squeezed, its sig­nificance has only increased. For 25 years the cup continues to be photographed, celebrated and cov­eted by athletes. And tomorrow, when Nantucket meets Martha’s Vineyard on the football gridiron, the cup is up for grabs again.

The cup has shown up at nearly every Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard game, although one year it was deliberately left behind by a team that knew it was losing. A symbol of the rivalry between two sports teams, it is also a tribute to two communities that have much to share off the field.

John D. Bacheller and Bob Tankard have a cherished memory of how it came to be known as “The Island Cup.” Mr. Bacheller bought the trophy in 1978. He was in his second year as head coach and plotting out a new season.

“I believe I bought it in the sum­mer of 1978 at Falmouth Trophy Store. At the time, it was the nicest trophy they had,” Mr. Bacheller said. “It was silver, white metal. I think I was told there were five dif­ferent kinds of metal in it.”

“I paid $127 for it. In those days that was expensive,” Mr. Bacheller said.

Mr. Bacheller, 60, is a retired vice principal at the Edgartown el­ementary school. He coached foot­ball from 1969 to 1974. “I came back in 1977 to take on the posi­tion of head coach, along with Bob Tankard. He and Dave Maddox were my assistant coaches.”

Mr. Tankard, a retired West Tisbury elementary school principal, said: “There is a lot of enthusiasm about that trophy. There is Island spirit in it.”

Mr. Tankard recalls the time when he and Mr. Bacheller went over to pick it up at Falmouth Tro­phy and the circumstances that led to its purchase.

In the fall of 1977, the Vineyard had had a tough early season. “We had started the season and lost four games in a row. We revamped the team, moved the play­ers,” Mr. Tankard said. “Then we started win­ning. We beat Nan­tucket.”

It was as much a sur­prise to the Vineyard coaches as to the spec­tators. “We received the ball on our five yard line and we drove down the field, to end the game as the winner. It was an unprece­dented game. I think we won 12 to 6,” Mr. Tankard said. “We felt good. We beat Nan­tucket, and we weren’t supposed to beat them.

“The next summer, John and I talked.” Mr. Tankard and Mr. Bacheller explored ways to keep that mo­mentum of the year just past, and they hit on the idea of a trophy.

Recalled Mr. Bacheller, “It was a fun idea. When I was a kid, I went to Danvers. I remembered there is a ri­valry between Salem and Beverly. They had a Thanksgiving game and they had a trophy called The Bridge. It was named after a bridge that ran between Beverly and Salem.”

Mr. Bacheller said he saw one large trophy that seemed to meet the need. Vito [Capizzo, Nantucket’s football coach] was sup­posed to go look at it. I called Vito and I don’t know if he ever looked at it,” Mr. Bacheller said.

On one sunny summer day, Nantucket Sound was calm.

Mr. Tankard had an old 16-foot MSG boat with a 33-horse out­board motor. He and Mr. Bacheller sailed to Falmouth together and picked up the trophy.

Mr. Tankard said: “Although we are arch rivals with Nantucket, we had nothing to share with each other.” Mr. Tankard said he thought of the rivalry between Boston Col­lege and Notre Dame. They have a trophy.

Mr. Bacheller recalled that Mr. Capizzo had offered to pay for half of the trophy. And Mr. Bacheller said he is still waiting for the check. “I think I have a controlling interest in the trophy, if I am not mistaken,” Mr. Bacheller said.

The trophy has gone back and forth many times between the Is­lands.

The cup was enthusi­astically received and ever since it has added importance to the game. “It turns out, usu­ally, whoever wins the trophy usually goes on to the Super Bowl,” said Mr. Tankard. “It is just one of those things. That trophy has been on television. On the Sat­urday before Thanks­giving, there is media attention.”

“The trophy got banged up, too,” Mr. Tankard said.

David C. Maddox, has been involved as an assistant coach for 12 seasons. His last year was 1997. Mr. Maddox remembers repairing the trophy in the 1980s. The metal football player at the top of the trophy had become separated. “I remember using fiberglass to rebuild and reconnect the figurine back to the trophy. I did it at my workshop in the basement of my house,” Mr. Maddox said.

When all was done at his Daggett avenue home, Mr. Maddox said, he tucked a note into the trophy that as far as he knows has never been recovered.

The base of the trophy is made of tropical hardwood. Mr. Maddox said: “There are many inside sto­ries shared by the coaches.” Vine­yard coaches have always won­dered why there were two little nail holes with no plate on one part of the trophy, he said. “We surmised Vito stuck another plaque onto the trophy when it was on Nantucket,” Mr. Maddox said.

There is pomp and circum­stance that goes with the cup. At the conclusion of every game, the year’s previous winner of the tro­phy dutifully passes it on to the winner. Mr. Tankard recalled in 1986 when the Vineyard team was shining. “Vito didn’t bring the trophy. He knew we were tough. In that game Eric Blake ran 40 yards for a touchdown. Vito had to send it over by plane,” Mr. Tankard said.

“We’ve always been faithful,” Mr. Tankard said. “We always handed it over to Vito when they’ve won. It’s been over there quite a bit. But in the last 12 years, it has been coming over here quite a bit.”

Mike McCarthy works at the re­gional high school as a guidance counselor. When the cup was first acquired by Mr. Bacheller, Mr. Mc­Carthy was the high school athletic director. He has two sons who have played on the varsity football team and he assists Mr. Herman as an assistant coach. “That trophy has a lot of meaning,” said Mr. Mc­Carthy. “The trophy is what you play for. It is kind of like the Stan­ley Cup.”

Jack Law, president of the Touch­down Club, has watched the tro­phy closely for the last 10 years. It means a lot to him. “When Don­ald Herman picks it up,” said Mr. Law, “I am one of the first guys that puts my hands on it.”