High schools

HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL

Martha’s Vineyard cancels final two football games

Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School dressed 14 varsity football players for its ninth game of the season Friday night against visiting Greater New Bedford Vocational.

The ninth game, a 14-0 MV victory fueled by the arm (56-yard TD pass) and legs (49-yard scoring run) of Zach Moreis, will be the last of the 2017 season.

Martha’s Vineyard has canceled its final two games, including its annual Island Bowl against Nantucket scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 25.

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“This decision was not made lightly,” said Martha’s Vineyard athletic director Mark McCarthy.

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“It’s something that has been on the table for several weeks now. Our biggest concern is the safety of our kids.”

Martha’s Vineyard (2-7) has struggled on the field this season — its only win came via forfeit over Atlantis Charter, a first-year program.

The Vineyarders’ program has been declining in numbers sharply since 2009, reaching its breaking point this season.

MV started the season with 36 players on the varsity roster, but now, just 14 are healthy. Six to seven freshmen were added to Friday’s roster.

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Injuries have been mounting. But violations of team rules have also contributed to the low numbers. Several players facing two-game suspensions have chosen to leave the program instead. Others have departed for personal reasons.

The past two seasons have been difficult since the retirement of 28-year coach Don Herman, who led the program to eight Super Bowls, winning five. Steve McCarthy coached the Vineyarders to a 1-9 mark in 2016, but left for personal reasons. Ryan Kent, a four-year player at Bellingham High who played collegiately at Wagner, was hired as head coach after serving as line coach last fall.

“Ryan walked into a tough situation,” said Mark McCarthy. “Our numbers were already declining. Ryan is a young coach whose focus is on making our program viable once again.”

The program also struggled in the early 1980s before Herman took the helm.

McCarthy, however, believes the community and the school football program will overcome this adversity.

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“As an island community, we need to focus on what we can do to promote and gain participation at the youth and high school level,” he said. “A healthy youth program helps contribute to a healthy high school one. I’m hopeful we can make a comeback.”