After 12 consecutive Island Cup victories, the Vineyard team was forced to give up its cherished trophy to a more powerful and experienced Nantucket Whalers on Saturday afternoon. With a final score of 42-0, this was the most one-sided game in the 69-year history of the inter-Island football rivalry, known since 1978 as the Island Cup.
And it ended the longest winning streak either team has had against the other.
Close to 1,000 people, including about 400 Nantucket fans who traveled to the Vineyard via a special Island Cup ferry, turned out for the game under gray, occasionally showery skies. Vineyard fans rang purple cowbells as their team took the field, with emergency vehicles blaring lights and sirens. A small group of Minnesingers sang the national anthem in close harmony and Nantucket won the toss.
But with the coveted silver cup glistening in the misty rain on the sidelines at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s Daniel G. McCarthy Memorial Field in Oak Bluffs, Nantucket dominated early, scoring four touchdowns in the first two quarters and consistently stopping every Vineyard effort to advance.
“This is like a championship boxing match,” said Bill Abramson, a veteran sportscaster who was there to help call the game for Nantucket’s radio station and capeandislandsports.com. But before long, it began to feel more like a merciless drubbing as the Whalers kept the Vineyard scoreless while racking up a total of six touchdowns by the end of the game.
Halfway through the second quarter, Vineyard junior Zach Moreis went down hard and spent several minutes on his back before leaving the field without assistance. He was back on the field after halftime.
As the clock ran out, Nantucket fans cheered and the cup was turned over to the Whalers for the first time since 2002. The Vineyard leads overall in Island Cup victories, 19-18.
For the Vineyard, it was Stephen McCarthy’s first Island Cup as head coach (he had seen action as a player in the 1970s) taking over from Don Herman, who retired after 28 years at the helm. Mr. McCarthy has had a tough first year with a young team plagued by injuries, winning just one game since the season began.
Nantucket coach Brian Ryder is in his third year as head coach. His strong, seasoned squad was 8-3 overall for the season, and included his son Cory, a 6’4”, 290-pound senior who has committed to play football on scholarship at Holy Cross.
Mr. Herman was in the stands Saturday and he knew what the Vineyard would be dealing with, having faced Nantucket last year in an almost-scoreless game.
“Nantucket was a good team last year and they only had two or three seniors on the team, so you knew going in that they were going to have all guns loaded and that it would be a tough challenge.”
Still, Mr. Herman sees promise in the young Vineyard squad. “They’ve got some good young talent,” he said.
But even the spate of injuries that has forced Mr. McCarthy to empty the junior varsity ranks may have a bright side, Mr. Herman added. “They were then able to get a lot of young kids a lot of valuable playing time, and that’s going to bode well for them next year and into the future.”