Westwood Crushes the Vineyard in Disappointing Home Opener

By ALEXIS TONTI

The Vineyarders took a hit Friday night, falling 35-0 to Westwood in a game that pitted last year's Division V and Division VI champions against one another.

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The Vineyard (1-1) went into the game with some baggage, hoping to post a win against the only team to beat them on the road to the Super Bowl last season. But the Division V Wolverines (1-1) proved dominant, unleashing a sharp passing attack fueled by quarterback Jeff White. On defense, Westwood shut down the Vineyard rushing game, which just last week carried them past Carver.

"We knew going in that Westwood was going to be loaded. They returned almost the same team in fact from last year's group that beat us," coach Donald Herman said.

"We knew they were going to have more speed, more athleticism, and we knew it would take a great effort for us to have an opportunity to win the game. And unfortunately we didn't give ourselves a chance. We put forth a very poor effort that was uncharacteristic of our team."

Coach Herman added: "It is a young season, and we know we have a tough road ahead, some real good teams. Hopefully this will be a wake-up call that will pay off for us in the long run."

The Vineyarders did deliver a few big plays, including a 55-yard kickoff return by Anthony Sullo and an interception by defensive back John Swan, his second this year.

A big crowd turned out Friday for the home opener, filling the stands and lining the sides of the field. The wind was light and the air cool. Gone were the traditional cowbells, the fans instead armed with plastic clappers that clack-clacked their support. The Vineyard won the coin toss, elected to receive and - with the traditional cannon shot - took the field.

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The story of the night was forecast in the first quarter.

Westwood's offense showed versatility and explosiveness, putting 14 points on the board with a few big plays. Their first possession included a 46-yard run and a touchdown pass. Following a Vineyard turnover, they again moved quickly downfield, capping off the drive with a 15-yard run into the end zone.

Meanwhile, the Vineyard offense was unable to build momentum. They were held to short gains and twice forced to punt.

In the second quarter the Vineyard defense came out strong, with Adam Petkus, Andrew Farrissey, Carlos Ventura and Tony Cortez all making key tackles. On fourth-and-six Westwood punted, and the Vineyard began a slow march into Wolverine territory.

Wingback Tristan Atwood, Cortez and Farrissey all delivered short gains. Faced with fourth-and-six from the Westwood 23-yard line, the Vineyard took a chance. But Atwood's run was stopped and Westwood took over on downs.

With 2:25 to go the Wolverines had time for one more drive, but the Vineyard defense saved the score. Defensive back David Amabile stopped a big run, knocking Wolverine Chris Laham out of bounds at the Vineyard 36-yard line. Farrissey made the tackle on the next play to end the quarter.

The second half saw much of the same. Westwood scored in the first three minutes with a few long passes and a two-yard touchdown run, extending the lead to 21-0.

Sullo momentarily revived the Vineyarders with a tremendous kickoff return, putting the offense in good position on Westwood's 48-yard line. But the Wolverines stopped runs by Atwood and Kyle Robertson, and a fourth-down pass to Atwood went incomplete.

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Westwood took over on downs, and White promptly completed a 79-yard touchdown pass.

Cortez returned the kickoff 21 yards, but the Vineyarders couldn't convert and E.J. Sylvia punted with three minutes still on the clock. Westwood started to put together another drive on the strength of White's arm, pushing well into Vineyard territory, when Swan intercepted the pass.

The play gave the Vineyard some needed momentum going into the fourth quarter. But they were again stopped, and a Sylvia punt was blocked, putting the Wolverines at first-and-10 on the Vineyard 29-yard line. Westwood ran the ball into the end zone for what would be the final score of the game.

In the final seven minutes the penalties came fast, mostly on the Vineyard side. Westwood stopped a Vineyard drive with an interception, but was forced to punt with two minutes to go. In its final chance the Vineyard drove into Westwood territory - Cortez putting in a big play with a 20-yard run - only to fumble the ball in the game's closing seconds.

"At [the half] we were not panicked, we were only down 14. We made some adjustments, but then we just didn't execute. I think maybe it's possible we were asking the kids who have too little experience to do too much," Coach Herman said.

"John Swan played a good game on both sides of the ball. He had a touchdown-saving deflection early in the first quarter, and a nice reception in the fourth quarter and the interception. We had given him a tough assignment - he was responsible for covering one of their best receivers, and he responded to that challenge," he said.

Looking ahead to next week's game against Greater Lowell, Coach Herman struck an optimistic note. "Last year we were in the same position, coming off a pretty embarrassing loss to Westwood, and we responded and won the game. I think we can do it again."

Kickoff is scheduled for Saturday at 1:30 p.m.