The high school sports season began in earnest last week with three home contests. The golf squad posted the first Vineyard victory of the year, going 259-267 against Somerset on Tuesday.

On Saturday, the cross country teams hosted the eighth annual Vineyard Invitational. More than 400 runners took part in the races, which featured a “good core group” of schools returning to compete, said head coach Joe Schroeder. He said many off-Island squads use the invitational as a team-building race because it takes place at the start of the season.

Milton Academy and Notre Dame Academy took tops for the boys’ and girls’ squads at the invitational. The Vineyard boys took sixth place of 10 teams, led by sophomore Patrick Best and junior Nate D’Angelo, who finished 12th (17:51.60) and 13th (17:59.90) overall. Seniors Josh Boucher and Kevin Montambault, junior Chase Sylvia, and sophomores Daniel Gaines and Aivaras Gedvilas rounded out the varsity squad.

Sophomore Pearl Vercruysse earned first place for the Vineyard girls, finishing 19th overall (21:24.22). Senior Julia Neville took 25th with a time of 22:13.59. Seniors Sabrina Reppert and Willow Wunsch, junior Emma Reimer, and sophomore Mary McCarthy helped the varsity girls to a sixth place finish in a field of 12.

A core group of senior players have returned to the field hockey team. — Ivy Ashe

The football team took on Bedford in their season opener Friday evening, falling 20-13 despite a fourth-quarter rally. They will travel to Brighton this Friday. Eastern Athletic Conference play begins in late September, with an away game against Bishop Feehan.

The Vineyarders do not play at home until Oct. 3, when they will take on league opponent Bishop Stang.

Numbers for the football program are down this year, making an injury-free season a top priority for the coaching staff. Still, with a number of starters returning to the lineup, including starting quarterback Mikey Mussell, the talent is in place to turn in a strong season. Seniors Mike Mazza, Spencer Schofield, Jack Slayton, David Macias, Luke McCracken, Liam Smith, Dan Costello, Andrew Fournier, Austin Fournier, Serogia Bernier, and Gavin Fynbo provide a foundation of experience, with several underclassmen also expected to play key roles, including three-year starting safety Jacob Cardoza.

“It really all boils down to health,” head coach Donald Herman said. “Each year it becomes more and more of a factor.” He said that numbers were declining in junior high school programs in similar-sized schools on the Cape and South Shore, making larger squads harder to field once players get to high school. Somerset, an EAC opponent, dropped its junior high school team this year.

Field hockey numbers also dropped this year. Where last year’s program saw an all-time high of more than 70 players, this year there are 56 total.

A core nucleus of senior players return to the field hockey squad this year, captained by Aubrey Ashmun, Sydney Davies, Shannon O’Connor and Olivia Ogden. Five juniors mark their second year on varsity, and five sophomores have stepped up from junior varsity. Julia Bettencourt and Elissa Decosta hold down the fort in net.

The mix of experience and depth made for a productive preseason, with the team as a whole “doing things ahead of schedule,” coach Lisa Knight said. The Vineyard opened its schedule Monday with an away game against Maynard, and will host West Bridgewater on Thursday.

The soccer teams took on archrival Nauset for their season openers last Thursday, with both squads falling to the Warriors. The boys took a close 1-0 loss in an away contest. Playing at home, the girls’ squad lost 2-0, with both goals conceded in the final five minutes.

The girls continue a tough opening schedule with a game against Falmouth Monday afternoon. They take on Dennis-Yarmouth on Wednesday, and travel to Nauset for a rematch on Saturday.

Just three seniors returned to the girls’ varsity soccer team: Emily DeBettencourt, Katrina Lakis, and captain Annie Ollen. The Vineyarders are a sophomore-heavy squad this season, with nine on the squad. Sophomore keeper Cana Courtney returns for her second year in net.

Thirteen seniors make up the bulk of the boys’ roster. Eleven players, Colin Cameron, Brandon Dwane, Lee Faraca, Yannick Gonsalves, Alex GordonBeck, Elie Jordi, Noah Kleinhenz, Jason Lages, Ben Poole, Matt Stone and Nevin Wallis, return from last year’s varsity squad.

The boys traveled to Falmouth Monday and continue off-Island play Wednesday with a game against Dennis-Yarmouth. They host Nauset at home Saturday.