A 7-6 lead took the Vineyarders into the second half against Dennis-Yarmouth Saturday. But at halftime, the game became about more than what was on the scoreboard.

Game against Dennis-Yarmouth started out strong but unraveled in the second half. — Ray Ewing

The team surprised longtime assistant footbal coach Jason O’Donnell with a heartfelt sendoff at his last home game before retirement.

“It was very surprising and touching,” Mr. O’Donnell said after the game.

At halftime, Mr. O’Donnell embraced the rest of the coaching staff as the game’s announcer listed the assistant coach’s achievements. He played four years on varsity in his days on the team and led the high school to state championships his junior and senior years, and spent 16 years on the coaching staff.

“It’s funny because most of the coaching staff now are kids I grew up with,” Coach O’Donnell said. “So we were a very close team. Still, to this day, the closest team I’ve ever seen come out of here.”

For head coach Donald Herman, losing Mr. O’Donnell means losing a coaching partner who’s been loyal to him since the start.

“He had been coaching JV boys basketball, and I was able to convince him to also do football,” Mr. Herman said. “And he’s been a loyal assistant — a loyal friend — not just since he played, but as a coach since 2004.”

In the lead up to Mr. O’Donnell’s sendoff, the Vineyarders made a strong run at the start, returning the kickoff to the Martha’s Vineyard 47-yard line and taking just four plays to make it to the Dennis-Yarmouth red zone. That’s when Hiaggo Goncalves ran the ball into the endzone on a third-and-two play for what would be the only touchdown of the game for the home team.

The Vineyarders stopped a Dolphins drive with a sack on fourth down to bring them to a 7-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Dennis-Yarmouth managed a touchdown halfway through the second quarter, but the extra point attempt was blocked, leaving the score at 7-6 at the half.

Wide receiver TJ Lett carries the ball for the Vineyard. — Ray Ewing

In the second half the tables turned. The Dolphins returned the kickoff for a touchdown and never looked back, scoring three unanswered touchdowns — two with two-point conversions — to win the game 29-7.

“I definitely wish we had come out a little differently,” Coach O’Donnell said. “But the kids worked hard anyway and I have no complaints with how they played.”

He and Coach Herman both applauded the team’s composure in the second half, which brought taunts from Dennis-Yarmouth players, leading to unsportsmanlike misconduct penalties and some heckling from fans.

“I’ve felt this way all season — our kids fight. Our kids play hard,” Mr. Herman said. “And from a coaching point of view when an official tells you that your kids play hard, that, to me, is one of the ultimate compliments I can receive. And we get that quite often.”

Win or lose, Coach O’Donnell said the game, and his career for more than a decade, have been about one thing.

“It’s just really about the kids,” he said. “Watching them evolve and grow and watching these guys turn into young men, and, you know, just compete — show up,” he said. “It’s just a lot of that stuff that I enjoy watching and being a part of.”

More pictures.