Vineyarders Win Their Opener, 14-7

By ALEXIS TONTI

After a frustrating first half for the Vineyard football offense, defensive end Zach Mahoney blocked a Carver punt just minutes into the third quarter, shifting the momentum in the season's home opener Friday night. A quick score tied the game, and the varsity went on to defeat the Crusaders 14-7.

Mahoney, who played a standout game, also had six tackles, a fumble recovery and a sack on fourth-and-16 that led to a Vineyard possession.

The Vineyarders (9-2 last year) had not met Carver since the 1991 season, a game the Crusaders won 6-0.

A brisk wind prevailed and the shadows were long when the Vineyarders took to the field to receive the opening kickoff. John Valley returned the ball 21 yards, and the game was under way.

The sizable crowd filled the bleachers and stood along the length of the field. They came with their cow bells and picked up their rosters, ready either to cheer or to coach. They talked prospects for the season, which players the team had lost and who was back for another year. And when the Vineyarders fumbled on their second play from scrimmage, everyone drew a quick breath: They sensed it would be a difficult game.

The Vineyarders went scoreless through the first half, drawing repeated penalties that hampered any forward progress. The offense frequently packed the center of the field, and Carver halted drive after drive up the middle.

The Crusaders scored a late first quarter touchdown and nearly did the same in the second. With less than a minute to go, running back Mike Grant made several pushes for the end zone. Rob Hale stopped the first Grant sprint, tackling him after 14 yards. Zach Sweeney and Seth Coleman took him down three plays later after a 15-yard run that left him on the Vineyard 25 yard line.

The Vineyarders came back a different team in the third quarter: They abandoned the static play of the first half for a protean running game and dominated the clock with steady drives downfield.

After Mahoney's blocked punt, the ball rolled out of bounds at the Carver 7. On third down, Valley scored on a 10-yard touchdown run. A penalty on the failed two-point conversion and another for delay of game pushed the Vineyarders back twice before E.J. Sylvia put the extra point on the board with a 40-yard kick.

On defense, Coleman saved a touchdown run when he took the kick receiver, Jeremy Paladino, down at the Carver 41. The Crusaders made little headway down the field, and punted the ball away after less than four minutes.

The Vineyarders then began a nine-minute drive marked by quick plays and short gains. They spread out and created running lanes for Valley and J.D. Wild, who carried the ball both up the middle and along the sidelines. From their own 14 yard line, the team marched to midfield and then into Crusaders territory. Quarterback Hans Buder also showed quick thinking and quick feet as he ran for some key first downs.

After an incomplete pass to Coleman on third and 16, Sylvia attempted a 48-yard field goal. The ball fell short and Carver took over on downs with 5:32 to play.

The Crusaders didn't have a chance: In three plays Wild, Sweeney and Carlos Ventura each made a tackle, and Carver was forced to punt.

The Vineyarders began again on their own 42. A personal foul against Carver and a short run took them to the Carver 40 with less than three minutes to go. In a surprising change of pace, on second and 7, Buder rolled right and threw to Tristen Atwood, who ran the ball in for a touchdown. Sylvia's extra point made the game 14-7.

Unable to do much with their next drive, Carver punted to the Vineyard with 1:38 still on the clock. They got the ball back for one last chance, but the Vineyard defense held the scrambling Crusaders at bay.

The varsity travels to Westwood for its next game at 4 p.m. this Friday, Sept. 19.