The Whaler football team vividly remembers last year’s 43-0 loss in their season opener to the Mashpee Falcons at Vito Capizzo Stadium on March 12. It was a game filled with mistakes, poor tackling and blocking, and a lack of energy. Head coach Joe Perry knows his team will need a much better effort on Saturday to avoid a similar fate and begin this season on a more positive note against the Dennis-Yarmouth Dolphins.
“The team that commits the least amount of penalties will win the game,” Perry said. “We need to be physical while staying disciplined. I have to make sure the kids know Dennis-Yarmouth is a very good football team. We have some diamonds in the rough and some very good football players, but we are going to have a challenge coming for us on Saturday.”
Ask Dolphins head coach Chris Marsh what he expects on Saturday and he thinks fans will see two teams built similarly around explosive athletes.
“It should be a fun game and I’m excited for it,” Marsh said. “We have a couple of good athletes who can make plays like Nantucket does. A couple of our really good athletes play basketball with Makai (Bodden) and Justin (Bloise). They are on the same AAU team. So they know each other and I am sure they are fired up and excited to play each other. I am sure both teams are going to want to get their playmakers the ball out in open space.”
Nantucket sophomore quarterback Carlos Aguilar will be the man asked to fit all the pieces together on offense. It will be Aguilar’s first football game since eighth grade after he decided not to play last year. Perry expects Aguilar to help this Whaler offense reach a level fans aren’t used to seeing.
“Carlos should have a good game,” Perry said. “He is a smart kid and he is talented. We will need to get him in a rhythm early on with a couple quick completions but he is an athlete. He can make plays in a variety of ways. Everyone at the game should keep an eye on Carlos. I think he can make this a different kind of football game as long as he hits his reads, remains confident, and can pick up some first downs by reading the linebacker.”
“He doesn’t need to be flashy. He doesn’t need to be throwing 45-yard touchdown bombs for us to win. We just need to keep moving the chains.”
Makai Bodden will play slot receiver for the Whalers. Justin Bloise will play a hybrid role as a receiver and running back. Senior JJ Bennett will line up on the outside as a perimeter receiving threat with his 6’6’ 210 pound frame.
“It is exciting to think about the number of weapons Carlos will have to work with,” Perry said. “We will have to see who covers Justin on those swing passes, or Makai doing a ten yard out, or JJ running a drag in the middle. If none of those are available we can dump it off to our 6’7 tight end Jeremy Caspe.”
Marsh says he is well aware of the Whalers embarrassment of riches offensively but feels confident in his own playmakers’ abilities to move the chains as well. He said fans should keep an eye on senior quarterback Ryan Fitzgerald, number two, who played wide receiver last year before transitioning to quarterback this year because of his athleticism and experience.
“Ryan is a really good athlete and he has the physical tools to do very well at the position,” Marsh said. “Our leading receiver from the spring is back in Jaden Moore. He is number 3 and he had a great spring. David Azor is one of those guys who plays basketball with Justin and Makai. He has a similar playing style to them. He is number 23.”
Marsh said he has been telling his team their offensive abilities will only take them so far. He said Nantucket will come out of Saturday victorious if the Dolphins can’t have a strong game blocking or tackling.
“No matter what you do offensively, no matter what your strengths are, if you can’t block your opponent nothing matters,” he said. “So we have been preaching to our guys to run to the football, get in on those tackles, and maintain our blocks.”
Marsh said his defensive backs will need to stay glued to the Whaler’s receivers and backs. He expects his linebackers to play a role in coverage to help combat the Whaler’s size.
“We need to contain those guys on the perimeter and limit their yards after the catch,” he said. “If we don’t it will be a very long day for us. Doing your job and being in the right spot on defense will be key. We need to gang tackle, play with a lot of energy and emotion, and I feel like if we can execute our assignments we will be okay.”
Perry and Marsh say their teams will rely on two-way players in this game and beyond. Perry said his team has the depth to give starters some snaps off but it will be up to each individual player to speak up when they are winded.
“We need to make sure we are playing hard but staying healthy,” Perry said. “If one of our guys needs a break then hey, there is no shame in getting a breather on the sideline. We can get the next guy in there. That will be important though. Guys like Bennett, Bodden, Bloise, Caiden Shea, etc., will be playing a lot of snaps. We need to give them a chance to catch their breath every now and again.”
Kickoff is scheduled for 2 pm at Vito Capizzo Stadium.