The Nantucket Whalers Football Team finds themselves in a year of transition, as they work on adapting their style of play to the demands of new Head Coach Joe Perry. Former Head Coach Brian Ryder, who originally took over from William Manchester in 2014, occupied the role for 4 seasons, with an overall competitive record of 34 wins and 14 losses. Under Ryder, the team reached the South Sectional semifinals multiple times, but wasn’t able to take the next step. Perhaps the most memorable moment of Ryder’s time at NHS was the demolition of Martha’s Vineyard in 2016, reclaiming the Island Cup in an impressive fashion. Joe Perry, an NHS alumni and former Whaler Football player, works at the school as a groundskeeper and the team is excited to get going under his leadership.
Chance Pollock, a senior Captain on the team, highlighted the positive mood within the team and the coaching staff, saying “I personally think this year’s coaching staff is the best I have ever played under in my football career. They really work well with listening to the players and making sure that we push ourselves as hard as possible every day.”
When asked upon the differences between the new and old coaching staff, Pollock stated “I think that the main difference is that this year they realize that football is a very competitive sport requiring immense discipline, but that is also meant to be fun and I think that has created a really good attitude among the players.”
However, with a new coaching staff also comes a new playbook and philosophy that can be challenging to implement in a short period of time. In years past, not as much preseason time was spent learning the plays as most players already knew them. This year however, some time on the field had to be sacrificed to ensure all the players were familiar with the system. Additionally, the first two games of the season were against two challenging teams, reigning state champs Mashpee and Cohasset. They lost both games, the scores being 38-7 and 28-27, respectively.
Speaking on the Cohasset game, senior Captain Camden Willett said “A big thing for us was covering their runs to the outside. If we had stopped those kinds of runs, we definitely would’ve performed much better.”
Despite their trouble with this aspect of the Cohasset offence, Nantucket stayed neck and neck with them the entire game, leading to a tense and confusing final quarter. Nantucket, trailing 28-27 and on fourth down, found themselves in a position where one last drive for a first down would put them in field goal range with around 30 seconds on the clock. However, at the start of the play there was a mass confusion among the players on both teams. Willet explained “Before the center can touch the the ball and start the play a ref has to blow the whistle. One ref blew to start the play so Isaac [Corbett] grabbed the ball and snapped it to Darian [Duarte], but once Darian got it there was a second whistle from a ref who must have thought the play hadn’t started yet. So, everyone stopped and looked at the ref, who in response did nothing, telling Darian to run the ball. At that point it was too late and Cohasset was already tackling him.”
The game finished at 27-28, with Cohasset taking the win in a classic match up. However, the Whalers can now look forward to the rest of their schedule, with the next matches against Holbrook and West Bridgewater on the 22nd and 29th of September, respectively. Despite dropping their first two games, the team has high hopes for the season and the future looks bright under fresh new leadership.
By Emmet Clarke