Football Drops Opener To Cardinal Spellman 12-0

David Creed •

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Photography by David Creed

There wasn’t much offense to be had in Saturday’s late morning matchup between the Nantucket and Cardinal Spellman football teams. The margin for error was thin and it was a day where the more discipline, mistake-free team was going to walk away with a win. The Cardinals were that team that day and won 12-0, handing Nantucket a loss to begin the season.

“The defense has learned over the years to make up for our offense which is undiscipline as you saw today, but that is on me as the offensive coordinator to clean that up,” head coach Tim Psaradelis said after the game. “That was my message to the kids. I am going to go to work this weekend and figure out what to do to fix it, and we always do. It always works out. But the goal this year is not to start out 0-1, 0-2 and end up with a 7-4 or 7-3 season. That was my big motto to the kids. We aren’t going to have those mediocre seasons anymore, so this was a good wake up call for them and for me to kind of know where these guys are at.”

After both teams were unable to do anything with their first possessions, the Cardinals were able to strike first off a 25-yard touchdown pass by senior quarterback Jack Duffy to make it a 6-0 game after Duffy had his extra point attempt blocked.

Whaler senior running back Kareem Maxwell had a nice return to midfield on the ensuing kickoff, a play that could have given Nantucket a spark, but it was called back following a block in the back penalty that pinned Nantucket all the way back to their own 19-yard line.

Both teams were forced to punt at the end of their next drives, but Nantucket seemed to have some life with just over four minutes to go in the first half when junior quarterback Carlos Aguilar ripped off a long run, but the run was called back for another penalty. The Whalers tried to claw their way out of the hole, but eventually found themselves in a third and long situation which ultimately led to the second interception on the day for Aguilar, who didn’t have many options on the play with 38 seconds to go in the first half. The Cardinals ran out the clock to take a 6-0 lead into halftime.

Psaradelis said these penalties can be minimized as his team gains more experience. The Whalers are developing a young offensive line that is talented but lacks varsity reps as a collective unit.

“It comes with experience,” Psaradelis said. “We have inexperienced players who are going to make mistakes it just so happens it happens at the strangest times because they probably aren’t aware we are gaining momentum but as a coach I know we are getting momentum but I’m not sure they are, so the fact they are making mistakes I don’t think it is a jittery thing, I think it is just enough mistakes are happening where they are happening at the worst times.”

Psaradelis added that there were several looks the Cardinals’ defense gave his offense where he felt like they could exploit them for a big gain on offense, but mistakes such as offsides penalties, holds, or a formation mistake negated the chance.

“I can count probably 15 times this game where that happened, which is insane,” Psaradelis said. “That is reps, that is coaching, and that is what I was talking about to them is I have to fix that (as head coach). That is on me.”

The Whalers had a golden opportunity to begin the second half when the Cardinals fumbled on the first play of the half. Senior captain and defensive end Ian Williams recovered the fumble and gave Nantucket field position just outside the red zone at the Cardinals’ 22-yard line.

But Nantucket was unable to do anything with the chance. They turned the ball over on downs. The defense rose to the occasion again on the next drive. The Cardinals went for it on fourth and three but were stopped just short on a pitch play following an excellent pursuit and tackle by senior linebacker Griffin Fox. The stop gave Nantucket excellent field position again.

Fox immediately made his impact on offense felt with a 27-yard carry, the longest offensive play for Nantucket on the day to bring the Whaler offense into the red zone.

The drive stalled in the final 30 seconds of the third quarter and with the game still 6-0, Nantucket decided to attempt a field goal, but the attempt was no good.

The Cardinals were able to burn some clock, but Nantucket was able to force another punt. Another costly error was about to occur, however. Junior Jayquan Francis muffed the punt, which was recovered by the Cardinals at the Whaler five-yard line. Duffy ran it in on an outside zone run to the right side on the first play to make it a two-score game. A two-point conversion attempt was no good, making it a 12-0 game with 4:50 to play.

Francis, one of Nantucket’s most athletic and skilled players, will almost certainly have far more positive plays than negative ones this season. He had a strong game defensively and the potential to be a big-time contributor on offense has been apparent in games last season and their preseason scrimmage against North Reading in August. It comes down to the ability to move forward from the mistake, which made what happened post game so important in Psaradelis’ eyes.

Following the game, the Whalers gathered around in a circle as a team. Francis stood up and addressed the team, taking ownership and accountability for the fumble. It was well received with a strong applause from his teammates, who know that Francis is an invaluable member of their squad and one they are happy to have.

“Obviously wins and losses are a priority because the program isn’t going to go anywhere if you are losing but I tell them every day if you stick with me and this program you are going to be a better person, and as I just said to them Jayquan Francis is now a better person,” Psaradelis said. “I don’t know that he would have made that speech last year. I just don’t know that he had the experience to come up and speak like that. But the fact he just did that completely erased the loss in my mind, and I was leaving here pretty depressed to be honest with you. I expected Ian Williams, Jeremy (Caspe), but to see Jayquan come in, he is one of those missing links. He is obviously a great athlete, but we need more than the athleticism. We need the heart, soul, and commitment, and he has always sort of been on the periphery while having his great moments. This is a sign he is part of this family now.”

“I’m super proud of Jayquan for doing that and that is going to help us a lot. If he can start to take on that leadership role, we are going to be a very good football team.”

The Cardinals eventually ran out the clock to conclude the game. Aguilar led the team with 50 yards rushing on 11 carries. The Whalers will look to earn their first win of the season next week when they host the Mashpee Falcons on Saturday, Sept. 17, at 3:30 p.m.

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