They came, they saw, they squished.

Using their clumsy "Squish the Grapes" battle cry, the Nantucket Whalers rumbled into Oak Bluffs Saturday and pounded the Martha's Vineyard high school football team 30-13 in a predictable, impressive triumph. The victory before 2,500 Island fans marked the third consecutive Island Cup win for the Super Bowl-bound Whalers.

"Our kids played hard and with pride and determination," said Vineyard head coach Donald Herman. "But Nantucket is playing very soundly right now."

With an experienced, hungry team, Nantucket expected to trounce the Vineyard, and for the most part, they did. The Whalers ended their regular season at 9-1; the young Vineyard squad finished at 3-7, the poorest mark in the eight-year coaching reign of Mr. Herman.

But after the game, the Vineyard coach was unfazed by the squish, er, loss.

"We played proud football, and I'm proud of my guys," Mr. Herman said. "I was happy with their effort. I just wish they had given us this type of effort more consistently during the season. If they had, we might have had a better overall record."

For a moment, the home team provided a glimmer of excitement on a gray, chilly Saturday afternoon. After spotting Nantucket a 12-0 first quarter lead, the Vineyard capitalized on a Whaler miscue when fullback Chris Russell plunged in from one yard for a touchdown and a 12-6 margin.

The Russell touchdown seemed to shift momentum back to the Vineyard, which stopped Nantucket its next drive and appeared ready to enter halftime down by only one score.

But then disaster struck. In the next 1:41, Nantucket reeled off 15 points to enter halftime with a devastating 27-6 lead.

The key plays were a 76-yard jaunt by Whaler Bobby King, which led to a touchdown, and a Vineyard turnover on the ensuing kickoff.

On the kickoff, the Vineyard's Ben Higgins caught the ball, stepped left and attempted to fire a pass to teammate Jeremy Tilton. But the ball was deflected and recovered by Ethan Ellsworth of Nantucket, and the Whalers scored several plays later."We tried to do something unconventional to get some momentum back, but it backfired," Mr. Herman said. "When you are down 27-6 at the half, that hurts. The game is basically over."

The Vineyard played with renewed spirit in the second half, limiting the Whalers to three points on a 35-yard field goal by Ernie Strang. The home team managed a touchdown in the fourth quarter when senior Chris Amaral scored on a 37-yard scamper.

But the final outcome was never in doubt, largely because Nantucket fielded the most impressive offense the Vineyard faced in 1995. Senior quarterback John Aloisi, a three-year starter, is a superb passer and often toyed with the Vineyard secondary.

"John's gotten a lot bigger and stronger," Mr. Herman said. "You can tell what his off-season weight training program did for him."

After the game, Nantucket head coach Vito Capizzo (33 years at the helm, 219 wins) was gracious, saying the Vineyard will be back to winning form in 1996.

"Donny [Herman] has a young team and he's rebuilding. He's got a good program and he'll be back," Mr. Capizzo said, taking a few victory puffs on his trademark pipe.

For Nantucket, the season ends Dec. 2 when the Whalers meet East Boston in the Division 5B Super Bowl. Mr. Capizzo is attempting to break his string of five Super Bowl losses, including two consecutive defeats in 1993 and 1994.

In fact, Nantucket's desire to win the big one is so urgent it has turned to Mr. Herman, who won Super Bowls in 1991 and 1992 and played East Boston the last two seasons.

Mr. Herman gave the Whaler staff a videotape of the Vineyard's 1995 East Boston game and offered a few tips on how to beat the Easties. And Mr. Capizzo — who playfully calls Mr. Herman as "The Snake" — even invited the Vineyard coach to stand on the Whaler sidelines on Dec. 2.

But Mr. Herman, who also received an offer to do color analysis on the radio, has other plans.

"I said thank you very much, but I have to coach my little boy's basketball game," Mr. Herman said.

Aside from coaching youth basketball, Mr. Herman will be busy planning for the 1996 Vineyard season. He has a stable of returning players, including future stars like running back Ben Higgins, lineman Ean Lewis and Peter Lambos, who was injured in the first game of the season and missed the rest of the year.

But while little was expected of the 1995 Vineyarders, next year's team faces more pressure to win, Mr. Herman said.

"Next year, we should be a contender, in all respects," the coach said. "We should be one of the top two or three in the league."

Mr. Herman and the Vineyarders will have to contend without a list of departing seniors including Rob Moriarty, Sean Herrmann, Chris Amaral, Gennaro Piccione, Chris Russell, Jeremy Tilton, Kofie Cash, Jeremy Requena, Mike Blake and Eric Alexander.

The team will also miss Rob Dickson, who graduates after quarterbacking for two straight seasons. The soft-spoken Dickson was a classy representative of Island football, and ably handled the adversity and changes of the past two years.

"A lot must happen between now and next season," Mr. Herman said. "We have a lot of young quality players coming back, and we should be a better football team. But they are going to have to hit the books and the weights."


Pregame Parachutes


In an unprecedented event for the Island athletics, four skydivers jumped from an airplane onto the high school football field Saturday to present the game ball at the Martha's Vineyard-Nantucket game.

The dazzling jump, paid for by the M.V. Touchdown Club, impressed the crowd of 2,500 in Oak Bluffs, even though the display delayed the kickoff by 20 minutes.

"I don't think there's ever been anything like that," Mr. Herman said of the jump.

Additional pregame excitement was provided by 1994 Vineyard high school graduate Joanne Cassidy, who sang a marvelous rendition of the Star Spangled Banner. Miss Cassidy, now a college sophomore, is a former member of the high school Minnesingers.