The Nantucket Whalers’ football team started off their season as they always do: on the blazing hot August gridiron. After last year’s playoff win and first island cup victory in twelve years, the team looked poised to go above and beyond anything the group had done before.
Many players, including seniors Nick Correia, Mark Hamilton, and Chris Ancero Allen, had spent much time working to get better before even the preseason had started. Correia, a team captain, had been offered a full scholarship from the University of Rhode Island to play football in May of his junior year, and verbally committed to the school in very late August just before the team was set to start their regular season. Commenting on the dawgs who worked all summer to get better, Correia said that “the boys who were here all summer are really stepping up; their commitment shows whenever we get on the field.”
The senior also talked about his commitment to the University of Rhode Island: “I worked hard all my life to get to this point, I have to focus on my season before starting to center my focus towards the next chapter.”
The team worked vigorously for the first week of practice before playing in a multiple team mini tournament in Barnstable. After the tournament, the team turned their focus towards their annual scrimmage against Brighton.
The team’s outlook was very positive after the multiple team tournament, and after the scrimmage. Team quarterback, team captain, hero, cup raiser, and leader Jack Holdgate said “it was a wonderful way to begin our journey through the valley of the shadow of death towards the white whale [Gillette Stadium]”.
He also said that “the team has grown spectacularly because we have built chemistry on the field, and throughout our lives.”
Their regular season finally kicked off on the road against Bishop Stang, after the first week of school at NHS. The team was very impressive, kicking off their first game away and bringing home a 41-0 win, starting off their season as well as possible. The team was overjoyed by the result, and even though they were without their star halfback Alex “Biggs” Small, the sophomore Devonte “D” Usher stepped up in a big way scoring four times for the Whalers, including a 60 yard punt return after his initial 6 yard rush in the first quarter. He also added one hundred and two yards to his total, on just ten carries for the game. Holdgate completed multiple passes to the number one wideout Maxx “Sheesh” Cunningham, along with a screen pass to Usher.
The team came back with their heads held high after the first win, but quickly had to turn their focus onto their next opponent. The team was poised to play Manchester Excess, a team that had proved hard to beat in the past. The boys trained as they always do – hard as possible – in the week leading up to their second game. This was the team’s first home game of the season and they felt they had something to prove about how good the team really was. The fan presence at the first home game was great from the student base. Multiple fans came shirtless with player’s numbers on their chests, while others brought bullhorns and even megaphones to get the boys even more hype. The Whalers came out full blast, and felt the effect of their fans, and the return of their back Alex Small. Small, in his first game of the season, came hungry and ready to eat. Biggs got the ball twelve times, and on those twelve carries racked up one hundred and fifty two rush yards on top of two touchdowns. Usher also racked up another two touchdowns in that second game of the year. He had one on the ground, and another to start off the second half of the game on a kick return. This return was more or less the nail in the coffin for Manchester Essex: the game was over at that point.
The Whalers then faced much adversity in the week leading up to their third game. The weather came up the coast, and prevented the team from practicing outdoors on Tuesday or Wednesday. They could not go another day without being on the field for practice come Thursday, however. The game that was scheduled for Saturday the 23rd was postponed, and took place the following Sunday, when the Whalers had another dominating performance against West Bridgewater.
The squad was up 28-0 after just the first quarter, thanks to touchdowns from Davonte Usher, Torane Burton, and Alex Small in the quarter. At the very beginning of the second quarter, quarterback Jack Holdgate passed for his second passing touchdown of the new season to Biggs. This was Biggs’ second touchdown of the game, which pushed the score even higher up to 35-0. The Whalers scored one last time before the game was over on a rushing touchdown from Holdgate. The final score ended up being 41-7, driving the team to a 3-0, 1-0 record within their division.
So far, the Whalers have totaled 114 points, or 38 points per game, while only allowing 14 total points in their first three games.
School legend Jack Holdgate had this to say about the team’s dominating start to the season: “We are really sick, and really big. We are very fast, and much more agile than most, if not all, of our opponents. Also we just really, really, really like to play football. Football is fun.” The boys had another grueling week of practice in preparation for their fourth game of the season. They traveled to Monomoy on a rainy Saturday and crushed them, for a final score of 55-6. Running back Biggs had three rushing touchdowns, increasing his season total to seven for the three games he’s played in thus far. Biggs also added another 125 rushing yards to his season totals. Devonte Usher added to his touchdowns totals as well, with a kickoff returned for a touchdown and another rushing touchdown. The team’s young back is looking nasty, and the combination of Usher, Biggs, Torane, and Holdgate is looking unstoppable to this point. The boys will face Sacred Heart at home before heading to Mashpee for their biggest game of the year on October 14. The dawgs will be ready.