They haven’t played together in 50 years, but tonight the members of the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s first football team will come together from as far away as Florida and as near as Oak Bluffs to attend a dinner at the high school before the Island Cup game tomorrow.
High school athletic director Mark McCarthy, whose late father was the coach of that team, has organized the event.
Mr. McCarthy realized last August, just as he began in his new post at the high school, that this was the 50-year anniversary for the high school’s first football team. He checked around, and sure enough, there in the display case at the high school’s main entrance sat the team’s first commemorative football, a 1960 pigskin and a trophy that showed the final score in the game against Provincetown: 14 to 8.
Mr. McCarthy’s father, Dan McCarthy, and Francis (Sancy) Pachico were the first coaches; they led the team for two years. “I wasn’t even born yet,” Mr. McCarthy said of the first season.
The regional high school opened in 1959.
Before that, football had been played among the three down-Island high schools in Edgartown, Oak Bluffs and Tisbury.
But a regional high school football team was an entirely new concept. The early games were played at Veterans Memorial Park in Vineyard Haven.
“We only played four games that [first] season,” recalled Roy Meekins of Edgartown, who was team cocaptain with Gary Simmons. The Vineyard went one and three on the season, playing two games against Provincetown and winning one, and losing two games against Nantucket.
“I think everybody was green. Nobody had really played,” said Tony daRosa of Oak Bluffs. Nantucket was far more experienced at the game, he recalled.
“We had great cheerleaders,” he said.
Karen Barker Duffy of Chilmark was one. “I think it will be so much fun to see everyone . . . It was a fun time. I can’t believe so many years have passed,” she said.
For Mark McCarthy, the trip down memory lane was made more poignant when he found his father’s scrapbook in a closet in his mother Mabel McCarthy’s house. In it was a collection of newspaper articles written by his father for the local newspapers, neatly clipped and bound together, now yellowed with age. The scrapbook was a chronicle of the first two years of regional high school football.
Mr. Meekins has enjoyed revisiting the memories of that first year and said he looks forward to the events this weekend. “It has been fun. It will be real interesting to bring all those players together and have them all in one room, to sit and have a meal together. I am sure we’ll have some laughs about the old days,” he said.
The list of players as they know it, from 50 years ago, is as follows: Gary Simmons, Roy Meekins, Tony daRosa, Emmett Carroll, Ray Silvia, Tim Downs, Manny Jardin, Bob Diaz, Tom Bennett, Roy Debettencourt, Tony Rezendes, Raul Jackson, Larry Thomas, Gerry Suprenault, Todd Bassett, Joe Araujo, Butch Mayhew, Peter Herrmann, Kevin Hearn, Tony Medeiros, Ron Lopes, John O. Sylvia, Ed Ciancio.
The cheerleaders included: Barbara Thomas Murphy, Donna Ortez, Kathy Duys, Karen Barker Duffy, Jeanne Mayhew Gravley and Helen Duarte.