The Whaler football team nearly defeated the Mashpee Falcons last weekend in a 29-28 home thriller, but the Falcons ultimately held onto a lead they grabbed midway through the fourth quarter. Although the game was lost, there were significant strides taken by Nantucket’s offense. After being unable to score at all in their first game, they were able to score four touchdowns against a Mashpee program notoriously built around their defense and physicality.
The opponent up next for the Whalers will be the West Bridgewater Wildcats, who beat Nantucket at Vito Capizzo Stadium last fall 14-6. Wildcats head coach Justin Kogler said his team is a bit younger than they were last year, which has led to some in-game errors he is hoping his team can clean up ahead of Saturday’s matchup.
“We just made way too many mistakes last game against Fairhaven (lost 42-20),” Kogler said. “We can’t make mistakes against Nantucket like that. We gave Fairhaven possession at our 15, 40, and 20-yard lines. Just too many short field situations and if we do that against Nantucket, the same outcome will happen.”
The Wildcats are led by returning running back, senior Will Deluca. Deluca, a physical runner, stands at 6’0, 180 pounds. Kogler says he believes Deluca has improved since last season and should receive a bulk of West Bridgewater's offensive touches.
Defensive end/outside linebacker Sean Carter is a feel-good story for West Bridgewater. Carter suffered a serious leg injury against Nantucket in the 2021 COVID spring season, which forced him to miss the remainder of that season and most of the 2021 fall season. But Carter is back and playing a very important role for the Wildcats on their defense as a senior.
Kogler continues to work on developing junior James Harris, the teams new quarterback who continues to get better every week.
“I’m very happy with James,” Kogler said. “He is getting better week by week in every way. He has improved with his running. He is throwing it better. He understands the offense better. He is more composed.”
“Going back to these first couple games, I thought we played well defensively in the first game (against East Bridgewater). We tackled really well and we will need to play like that on Saturday to contain Nantucket’s playmakers. We just ran out of gas in that first one. The second game we ran into a buzzsaw. Fairhaven was a Div. 5 playoff team last year and I can tell you they will be again this year. Every time we had a chance to get back in the game, it just didn’t happen. We made a mistake and turned the ball over.”
Kogler said Nantucket junior running back Jayquan Francis, who ran the ball just five times but had 101 rushing yards and two touchdowns against Mashpee, immediately catches his eye on tape. He said senior Kareem Maxwell is another player he sees as a threat on Nantucket’s offense that needs to be contained.
"They always have new players who come in and provide that skill," Kogler said. "Last year they had Justin (Bloise) and (Makai Bodden) and I remember Francis from last year as well. Francis looks like he stepped right in and he is dangerous with the ball in his hands."
As for the defensive side of the ball, Kogler said senior defensive ends Jeremy Caspe and Ian Williams always cause problems. He said he feels like Caspe should have graduated by now given how long he has been an impact player for Nantucket.
“I like what their coaches do with those guys where they just put one on each side and say pick your poison,” Kogler said. “Both are long and athletic. They are strong. They are definitely two guys we are looking at.”