Football Drops Home Opener To Mashpee In 29-28 Thriller

David Creed •

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Photography by David Creed

The Whaler football team wanted to bounce back with a strong effort this week in their home opener against the Mashpee Falcons after a disappointing season opening game last week against Cardinal Spellman, and they did just that despite losing a thriller to the Falcons 29-28 Saturday afternoon.

“It is hard to win when you have two turnovers especially against a good football team,” head coach Tim Psaradelis said. “Yeah the score was not in our favor, but all the other intangibles were more than I could expect. I don’t feel like I lost right now. I feel good.”

Mashpee got off to a strong start, marching down the field on their opening possession to make it 6-0 after failing to convert their two-point conversion. That score stood after one quarter but given the way the offense played last week against the Cardinals; it made you wonder whether this game would get out of hand.

But the Whalers punched right back on their opening drive. They marched down the field but found themselves in a 4th and 7 situation on the Falcons’ 30-yard line. Junior running back Jayquan Francis got the touch on that play. It appeared Mashpee was going to stop Nantucket after one of their linebackers timed the snap nicely and got into the backfield untouched, but Francis made the man miss and had open field after that. Following the extra point, Nantucket had a 7-6 lead with 10:55 to go in the first half.

The Whalers didn’t have an answer for Mashpee’s running game during the second drive and let up another score with 5:26 to go in the half. The Falcons hammered Nantucket 28-6 last year by running it up the middle over and over, and that formula worked wonders once again in their first two drives. They converted the two-point try and suddenly had a 14-7 lead.

Nantucket needed another chunk play and got it from senior running back Griffin Fox who took the outside handoff and dashed to the end zone for a 46-yard score to tie the game.

Mashpee was unable to get much of anything going in their ensuing drive. The Whalers were much more successful stopping the run this time around as opposed to the first two series. With about 31 seconds left, they forced a poor Mashpee punt that gave them excellent field possession in the Falcons’ end of the field.

It was an opportunity for the Whalers to get a quick score before receiving the ball to begin the second half, but this golden opportunity ultimately led to a disaster for Nantucket.

Mashpee swarmed Whaler junior quarterback Carlos Aguilar and as Aguilar attempted to do a short pitch to a nearby running back, it was picked off and taken to the house from 58-yards out to give Mashpee a 22-14 lead following a successful two-point conversion going into halftime.

Both sides began the second half with poor offensive series, but eventually Nantucket was able to drive the field and climb to within one point after an 11-yard touchdown run by Kareem Maxwell with 6:24 to go in the third quarter.

Psaradelis said he feels like Maxwell is starting to get comfortable with what they are asking him to do.

“We have been working on him since preseason and shown him this is what is going to happen if you do (what we need you to do) and today it just clicked,” Psaradelis said. “You could see he was just like ‘wow, this is cool’ and that is huge because he doesn’t have football experience, hasn’t had much game experience, and today he did very well against a very good football team. He has learned how to run as a football player. He is strong and once he gets that going, not many people are going to be able to tackle him.”

The Whalers forced another punt. Mashpee had trouble moving the ball after two excellent series to begin the game. Senior captain and defensive end Ian Williams had a sack on this drive. He was all over the field all game long wreaking havoc on the Falcons’ offensive line.

The Whalers had a chance to take the lead back and wasted little time doing so. Francis got the touch and scampered 61-yards for his second score of the day to make it a 28-22 Nantucket lead. Francis finished the day with just five carries, but he made the most of them with 101 rushing yards and his two touchdowns. The Whalers took their six-point lead into the final quarter.

The Falcons finally began to move the ball once again, ultimately scoring and attempting their first PAT kick of the game, which they made to make it a 29-28 Mashpee lead.

There were just over five minutes left in the game and Nantucket had the ball at midfield. The Falcons seemed to have issues handling Nantucket’s rushing attack but came up with a key turnover after forcing a fumble and recovering it with 4:55 to go in the game.

The Whalers were able to put Mashpee in a 4th and inches situation with just under three minutes to go in the game, but the Falcons converted and picked up the first down, putting them in position to run out the clock with kneel downs.
Aside from Francis on offense, Maxwell (8 carries for 39 yards and his 11-yard touchdown) and Fox (4 carries for 47 yards and his 41-yard touchdown) each had strong days for Nantucket.
Defensively, Williams finished with eight tackles, two sacks, and was a menace on the edge of the Whaler’s defense all day. His leadership was evident all game long.

“Ian was really dominant and much more consistent this week,” Psaradelis said. “I know there were some times in the preseason when we were getting ready where he wanted to improvise a little bit and today he really held to his responsibility. He is such a good football player. He is strong, and if he can just be fundamentally sound, he is going to be extremely hard to deal with.”

“Jeremy Caspe is the same way and you could see them both doing it at the same time, doing what we needed them to do. It is really hard to get the edges on those guys.”

Senior defensive back Owen Wilson led the team with nine tackles. Senior linebacker Manny Almonte had eight tackles. Francis also had 7 tackles on defense.

“He is such a good defender and has such a nose for the football where that is his specialty right now is defense,” Psaradelis said of Wilson, who he said could also be an offensive weapon if they needed him to do so.

This was an effort that should have Nantucket feeling very good about the optics of their season moving forward. They will have another tough test next week when they travel to West Bridgewater to take on the Wildcats on Saturday, September 24 at 1:30 p.m.

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