The two island rivals, Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard, participated in the 38th annual Island Cup football game on Saturday, November 26. The outcome of the match up is one that won’t be soon forgotten on this island.
After a strong season (10-3), the Nantucket Whalers Football team enjoyed a stunning victory against the MV Vineyarders, with a final score of 42-0. The win marked the end of the Vineyard’s 14-year long streak and brought the coveted Island Cup back to Nantucket. Following the victory, the football team and their trophy returned home - and both were welcomed with a parade through town and up Main Street, where they were greeted by screaming fans, proud parents, and enthusiastic Whalers supporters.
The Island Cup game began at 1:00 pm, at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School’s home field. About 400 Whalers fans travelled with the Varsity football team for the game, all in support of Whaler Pride. Prior to the commencement of the game, and while the team prepared mentally and physically, fans had time to visit the towns of Edgartown and Oak Bluffs. Comically, several students and some Whaler fans were left behind in Edgartown, but eventually found their way back to the high school in time for the big game.
The Whalers started off strong, winning the coin toss and getting the kick-off. The team shut down the Vineyard squad and many of their offensive plays from the start, scoring the first Whaler touchdown at the end of the first quarter and tacking on an additional point with a kick. Junior Alex Small scored several touchdowns and ran well throughout the game. Other upperclassmen, including Jack Holdgate, Cory Ryder, JT Gamberoni, and Travis Demby, also played tremendously well and were recognized for their outstanding performance by many fans on both sides.
NHS head football coach Brian Ryder said that the team exceeded his and all of the coaches’ expectations and that “they worked very hard for a long time.”
“We had two weeks to specifically prepare for the Vineyard game, but the reality is they have been preparing for that game and all the games since the end of last season and throughout the winter months,” said Ryder. “A lot of them were lifting weights and, in the summer months, most of them were running and getting in shape for this. It showed on the field - [the team’s] conditioning definitely showed to be superior to the Vineyard.”
Junior linebacker, Owen West, added that the team spent the “two weeks practicing and preparing specifically for the schemes that the Vineyard ran, offensively and defensively.”
Despite the loss of many seniors this year, Coach Ryder maintains a positive outlook for the future. “I think we have a great nucleus of players coming back next year,” he said. “I think that the majority of our starters will be returning, so I think we will have a very strong year next year as well. I have very high hopes...to start one year at a time, for next year and the future of the program.”
West acknowledges the loss of his senior teammates, but believe that his team with still hold strong.“I am very excited for next year because I feel like we are going to be the same team, if not better,” he said. “We are losing four key seniors, but we are retaining a lot of juniors.”
Overall, the Nantucket Whalers football team proved to be an amazing group of players that each contributed to a tremendous season and a memorable Island Cup game. “I am very happy for the community, the school, and the football program, and I really hope that other players and or ex players who were on the fence that did not play this year realize the special group of kids and young men that we have playing the sport right now,” said Ryder. “I hope that they decide to come out for football next year because the sky's the limit next year, and the more these kids get to play, the better we’ll be. We are going to raise the bar next year and hopefully, not only win the Vineyard game, but get to the Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium eventually."