Matthew Ferro (40) pounds out yardage
Alison Shaw
Multi-colored confetti burst through the cold fall air whenever the Vineyard gained or Nantucket slipped. Orange plastic horns delivered toots of approval at touchdowns and penalty calls. Pompoms waved wildly and feet stomped the bleachers in loud, chaotic support.
All signs at the Saturday afternoon battle with Nantucket said this was a football Island: a community which cheered or jeered every play and never missed a game.
It was a victory for the Vineyard team. The high schoolers beat Nantucket, and at the sidelines they saw their bleachers filled with rooters, and they heard the singing of their fans.
Nearly 700 Islanders came to Saturday’s game. Some were alumni returned for the holidays, others were tradesmen, businessmen or school teachers, more were parents and students. There was a unity in the stands: it was time to show the ballplayers there was a throng of football backers.
Alison Shaw
One student estimated, “This is the largest crowd we’ve had in two years.” Bob Gardner added between screams of his enthusiastic classmates: “This is a special game, plus there were threats Nantucket would bring more fans, and we couldn’t have that.”
It was a blustering, chilled football day. The wind whipped through the stands and circled around red ears and flushed cheeks. Hot coffee was a big seller at the concession stand; down jackets were zipped to the chin.
Said one fan: “There’s an ulterior motive to the cheering - it keeps you warm.”
Other Saturday home games were warmer. None received the attendance the Nantucket game did. Muchael Joyce, who video-taoes each game, lamented: “There are as many people here today as there were for all the first six games.”
Francis Pachico, the assistant superintendent, offered the answer: “Nantucket draws.” The regulars were quick to note the difference.
Sheriff Chirstopher S. Look Jr. is a regular. So are Thomas A. Teller, the district court clerk, Joseph Didato, the high school guidance counselor, and Janice Manter, West Tisbury’s executive secretary. All said they’d never seen a turnout like the one on Saturday.
Mr. Didato commented as he bounced to keep warm on his bleacher seat: “The last time football really drew was the 1973 championship season. You don’t get a football or basketball crowd here. There is a basic nucleus of people who support all the games, but the nucleus is rather small.”
Must the high school have a winning team to attract a crowd? Most people said, yes, the Vineyard likes a winner best. Thomas Seeman, the soccer coach, was one fan who remained unimpressed by Saturday’s numbers. “The stands ought to be filled with people who should be here today. There’s not enough support, and as a kid you really do look for people to be watching you. I don’t know, but I think you need a winning team here to draw.”
On Saturday, however, the cheering was spirited under the leadership of Laurie Woodruff, gaily dressed as a female clown. George Tillett, an Oak Bluffs teacher, was an unlikely cheerleader, but his sharp wrist thrusts were answered with calls and shouts.
“I love football,” the enthusiastic cheerleader said from the sidelines. Dressed in the Vineyard purple and dancing on blue sneakers, Mr. Tillett was asked if he attended all the games. “Is the Pope Catholic?” quipped the man who said he led his first football cheer in 1945.
The game ended with an audible countdown from the stands and a rush onto the field. John Bacheller’s team was applauded to the locker room while the coldest fans ran to their cars and applied themselves to the horns. A banner waved above” “We’re Number One.” Fists pumped the air with pride. 
Michael McCarthy is the troubled high school athletic director. One week ago he called a meeting to garner support for the teams. This week the former regional high school and University of Connecticut football player said he is working to continue the momentum of Saturday’s game.
“It’s in the planning stages, but we will have a membership sale for a dollar for the boosters’ club,” he said. “We’ll develop an advisory board of 12 interested people in the community, and from that board we’ll do projects.”
There was no bonfire after the weekend victory, no dance to celebrate the winners. Mr. McCarthy says a pep club may promote such activity. “Somewhere, we’ll find a way to get more student involvement from the non-athletes. It’ll be a pep club of some sort but I don’t know if it’ll go this year. A lot of kids came to the game, and it would be great if we could keep the momentum.”