The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School football team is having a good week.
In addition to rolling over Littleton/Broomfield at home on Friday by a final of 29-14 to remain undefeated on the season, a news crew from NBC Sports is traveling with the team this week and taping a segment that will be aired later this year during a halftime segment of the network’s NFL Sunday Night Football program.
But even with a record of 4-0 and network cameras on hand to tape their every move, coach Donald Herman said his team is remaining focused and avoiding the temptation to go Hollywood.
“The players are excited about the NBC crew, but they’re taking it well. They know football is still their Number One priority,” the coach said.
The NBC sports division chose the Vineyard as one of 10 high school teams to profile. The news crew was busy this week interviewing coaches, players, students and perhaps even seagulls, and will travel with the team when they play at Hull this Friday.
The network did a feature covering the Vineyard-Nantucket game back in 2002 which aired during the halftime of a Notre Dame game later that same day. Among other things, the segment showed an 85-yard touchdown run that was called back by a blocking penalty.
Coach Herman said he is not sure what will be shown in the segment.
“I would guess they will show Friday’s game [against Hull], so I hope we win,” he said.
If last Friday’s game against Littleton/Broomfield was any indication, the Vineyarders should play well against the 1-3 Tigers from Hull, the last non-league game on their schedule before they start playing Mayflower Large League opponents.
After a slow start on the season, the offense has improved dramatically in the past two weeks, helping the team to score 32 against Lee High two weeks ago and 29 points against Littleton this past Friday.
The Tigers started the game by nearly fumbling the kickoff, but then proceeded to drive down the field to take an early 8-0 lead on a six-yard run by Zach Clarke, followed by a two-point conversion. Littleton does not use a kicker and always goes for two points after a touchdown.
But to the delight of the home crowd, the Vineyarders tied the game about midway through the first quarter when quarterback Mike McCarthy pitched out to Matt Lucier on an option play for a four-yard score. The Vineyarders added a two-point conversion to knot the score at 8-8.
Coach Herman used the option play all day against the Tiger’s 3-5 defense, an alignment that places three defensive tackles up front and five defensive linemen behind. The defensive ends are taught to rush around the offensive tackles to get to the quarterback, while the middle linemen attack the backfield and shut down the run.
The perfect way to stop this formation is to run the option, which allows the quarterback to pitch out if the defensive ends collapse the pocket. It worked almost to perfection on Friday, as McCarthy finished the game with 88 yards and one touchdown.
With the score tied in the first quarter, the Tigers responded with a 15-play drive capped by an eight-yard touchdown run by Clarke, their leading rusher. A two-point conversion was snuffed by the Vineyarders, and Littleton held a 14-8 lead late into the quarter until Michael O’Donaghue had a long kick return to midfield.
Josh Paulson had a 31-yard run in the drive, although it was McCarthy who crossed the goal line after keeping the ball on an option play from about three yards out. The extra kick by Zach Countino — who was again perfect on the day — gave the Vineyarders a 15-14 advantage.
The Tigers fumbled the ball with about three minutes left in the half which was recovered by Nick Gross. The Vineyarders later scored on a six-yard run by Paulson to make it 22-14 going into the half.
Early in the second frame, the Tigers picked off a McCarthy pass and drove all the way down field to the Vineyarders’ five-yard line, where the home team held the line and turned them back on four consecutive downs. Neither team scored in the third quarter and into the fourth, when Paulson scored from about 12 yards out to give the Vineyarders a 29-14 lead, which was the final score.
This week’s match-up against Hull will be the third in a row against a largely unknown opponent. The Vineyarders will also have to overcome some injuries: Matt Lucier is nursing a sore shoulder and Matt Costello will miss the game with a shoulder injury. After coming out of the first quarter of Friday’s game, Bubba Brown will also miss this week’s game, and will be replaced by Darren Stobie, who did a solid job last week off the bench.
Coach Herman said his team continues to get better, but there is still room for improvement.
“We’re a better team now than we were at the beginning season, but there is a long way to go. We still have to work on some things,” he said.
Touchdown Club Auction
The 12th annual Martha’s Vineyard Touchdown Club auction and dinner is this Sunday at 5:30 p.m. at the Portuguese-American Club on Vineyard avenue in Oak Bluffs. All monies raised will go to benefit the high school football and cheerleader programs.
A scheduling mishap for the referees forced the cancellation of Wednesday’s boys’ soccer game against Seekonk, a source of frustration for a team that hasn’t played a game in a week and is not scheduled to play again until today at Bourne.
After playing a flurry of games in a short span early in the season, the schedule has slowed to a snail’s pace, and the cancellation of this week’s game was especially frustrating for coach Bob Hammond.
“We were kind of looking forward to playing that game after a week of nothing . . . we need to keep the momentum going,” coach Hammond said.
One of the big reasons for the gap in the schedule is that the team no longer plays in the South Coast Conference. Last year, the Vineyarders played regularly scheduled league games every Monday, Wednesday and Friday; but last winter, the South Coast Conference voted against allowing the Vineyard to stay in the league.
As a result, the team had to schedule non-league games on an at-large basis.
The good news is that many of their former South Coast conference opponents agreed to fit the Vineyard into their schedule. The bad news is that they had to slot them in between their own league games, which led to a somewhat uneven schedule for the Vineyarders. The referee problem this week also can be traced to the team’s non-league status, as most referees were assigned to conference games.
Coach Hammond said that after losing their first game of the season against Fairhaven last week and then playing to a tie against Old Rochester, his team is eager to take to the field to get back to their winning ways.
“After starting strong we have hit a little flat stretch; but that’s going to happen in any season. Now the kids just want to go out and play,” he said.
Jao Paul Oliveira had two goals in the first half to propel the Vineyarders to a 2-2 tie against Old Rochester. All the scoring for took place in the first half, and the second frame was a defensive standoff. The Vineyarders did bounce two shots off the goalpost in the second frame that would have given them the win, but also held off several ferocious charges by Old Rochester late to preserve the tie.
“It was a frustrating game because we had the better scoring chances in the second quarter . . . we just couldn’t get the ball in the net,” he said.
The girls’ cross-country team on Saturday ran to a seventh-place finish in the New Balance Invitational meet at Warwick, R.I. Team captain Hilary Dreyer came in seventh with a time of 21:06; Emily Carter finished with a time of 22:04 for 45th place; and Sarah Jean Flanders finished at 22:06 for 47th place.
The girls finished in 7th place overall out of 27 teams.
On the boys’ side, Max Conley was the first Vineyarder to cross the finish line with a time of 18:19, good for 55th overall; Lucas Emin finished 83rd with a time of 18:47, Forrest Harcourt finished 107th with a time of 19:09, Evan Kendall finished 123rd with a time of 19:21 and Robbie Osmers finished 125th with a time of 19:23.
The golf team again won without their captain Tony Grillo last Friday against Sturgis at Farm Neck to notch their 10th win of the season. The day before, the Vineyarders tied the juggernaut Bourne team, paced by Grillo’s 36 in the first flight. Henry Smith edged his opponent against Bourne while Sam Scott tied his match to seal the tie.