Head football coach Donald Herman picked up his 200th career win Friday night before a home crowd as the Vineyarders held on for their first Eastern Athletic Conference victory of the season, defeating Bishop Stang 22-18.
The game was back and forth all night, and in the end the Vineyard team dug deep to make the win. “It was an exciting ball game,” Coach Herman said. “It wasn’t one . . . turning point . . . we made some big plays when we needed to make big plays.”
The Vineyarders are now 5-4 and 1-2 in conference play.
The team got on the board early, as a 64-yard drive midway through the first quarter concluded in a successful 16-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Alec Tattersall to fellow senior Jahmari Thomas. Senior running back Brandon Watkins provided the two-point conversion to put the team up 8-0.
The Spartans answered with a touchdown of their own at the end of the quarter, but a conversion attempt was thwarted by the Vineyard defense, and the purple-and-white remained ahead, 8-6. As the second quarter began, Tattersall handed off to Watkins, who streaked down field through the Spartan defense for an impressive 66-yard touchdown run. Senior Mike Cutrer’s successful kick added an extra point, and the Vineyard was up 15-6.
The remainder of the half was an up-and-down affair for the Vineyarders. The defense, led by senior Harry West and sophomores Kyle Stobie and Tony Canha, felt the absence of senior Doug Andrade, out with a shoulder injury, but nevertheless came up with several big plays, most notably forcing a turnover on downs with Stang on fourth and four. Containing Spartan quarterback Charlie McKeamon proved a daunting task, however, as McKeamon carried his team to another Bishop Stang touchdown, scoring with half a minute left in the first half. The Vineyard defense again blocked Stang’s hope for extra points, and the half ended with Martha’s Vineyard on top 15-12.
McKeamon scored again for Bishop Stang as the fourth quarter began, but the Spartans’ two-point conversion attempt was blocked by Cutrer in another standout defensive move. With the Vineyard behind for the first time in the game, 15-18, junior Joe Turney made a bullish 22-yard run up the middle following the kickoff return to put the Vineyard at first and ten on the 46-yard line.
A Tattersall-Watkins handoff on the next play resulted in another Watkins long run; the senior rushed 47 yards, crisscrossing the field to avoid his opponents, for the Vineyard’s third touchdown. Cutrer easily made the extra point, putting the Vineyarders up 22-18 with eight minutes remaining in the game.
Coach Herman was impressed by the execution of Turney’s counterplay run — “We hadn’t run up the field at all . . .it made them slow down, and helped set Brandon up [for the touchdown].”
Senior Andrew Freitas made a key fumble recovery not long after to put the ball back in Vineyard hands. The makings of a strong drive by Tattersall, Thomas and senior Diego deFreitas were thwarted by a turnover on downs with four minutes remaining in the game. The Spartans moved down field once more, but a McKeamon long pass that would have put his team in scoring territory was blocked by Cutrer.
The win was a testimony to the depth and physical strength of the Vineyard team, which has been plagued by injuries all season. Five starters, including Andrade and fellow senior Stuart Hersh, had to sit out Friday’s game, and sophomore John Henry O’Shaughnessy was taken out of play before the second half with a season-ending injury. The coaching staff had to tap into reserve players, and keep many on the field during both offensive and defensive plays. At one point, Coach Herman said, nine athletes were playing both ways.
“First, it’s impressive that we can do that,” he said, as it speaks to the players’ conditioning and training. Equally important was the mental conditioning: “We came through adversity, and it’s important for players to take away those sort of lessons,” the veteran coach said.