The Whaler football team came away with a 20-12 win over the Dennis-Yarmouth Dolphins Saturday afternoon in their opening game of the season, but it wasn’t in the fashion many expected. In a game that was supposed to be filled with offense, the Whalers found themselves in a scoreless game at halftime and in the midst of a defensive battle.
“It was great to come out on the winning side of our opening game this year,” head coach Joe Perry said. “The defense came on strong. It looked like old school Whaler football. I think Vito (Capizzo) and Dick Herman would be proud of those guys and the way they performed defensively (on Saturday).”
The Whalers carried momentum into the second half after a defensive stand in the final 16.5 seconds of the second quarter, which was capped off with a sack by defensive end Jeremy Caspe, who finished the day with four sacks.
“As soon as I made that first one where their quarterback cut around the edge and came my way I knew it was game over for him,” Caspe said. “I knew my day was just starting. I was getting ready to crank that guy all afternoon.”
“Jeremy was all over the field wasn’t he,” Perry said. “It is hard to pick the player of the game in this one but he deserves credit for how well he played. He is going to be a force to be reckoned with moving forward.”
Whaler wide receiver Makai Bodden said seeing someone like Caspe have success gives the team a jolt because of his work ethic and selfless attitude on and off the field.
“Jeremy is a great player, a great teammate, and he has been working hard every single day this summer and it showed in this game,” Bodden said. “He would put himself on the line for anyone on this team. I love playing with him.”
For two and a half quarters it was a game that provided very little open space for playmakers on either team to gain yards after the catch or find open holes in the running game. Each team was waiting for one of their playmakers to make something out of nothing to spark their offensive units.
For the Whalers it came on special teams when Justin Bloise got things going with a 41-yard punt return touchdown with 6:25 remaining in the third quarter to give the Whalers an 8-0 lead. Bodden ran the ball in to tack on the two-point conversion.
“That punt return by Justin just got all of us going,” Bodden said. “It gave us that boost that we needed and turned the game around.”
The play was made possible after a poor snap by the Dolphin’s long snapper, which forced a rushed, line drive punt with very little hang time.
Bodden’s play came to life shortly after. The Dolphins answered with a score of their own to make it an 8-6 game, but Bodden caught a 12-yard touchdown pass in the final minute of the third quarter and then caught a 62-yard touchdown three minutes into the fourth quarter to give the Whalers a 20-6 lead.
“For me I never had the mentality that the game would continue to produce the same results as that first half on offense because every year I have played here we have been a second half team,” Bodden said. “This was a great team win where everyone contributed and the defense was on lockdown and had our back.”
The Dolphins scored again to make it a 20-12 game on a 41-yard scoop and score after the Whalers fumbled in their backfield. After a Whaler drive stalled, the Dolphins found themselves driving the field in the final minute with a chance to tie the game.
But Bodden made sure that didn’t happen. He sealed the game for the Whalers with an interception in the final seconds of the game to secure the 20-12 victory for Nantucket and a 1-0 start to their season.
“These past couple of seasons we lost the opening game and so for us to win that first one it gives us that boost,” Bodden said. “It makes us feel like we can beat anyone and that we can take care of business in our league.”
Caspe said this is a game that created momentum that can be carried into their next game.
“Someone said to me it was the first time we won a season opener in about four years,” Caspe said. “That is crazy to me but compared to how we began the season last year against Mashpee (a 43-0 loss) I feel so much better to begin this year than I did last year.”
Perry said he was happy with linebacker/defensive end Ian Williams performance and his ability to take up bodies and block up holes in the run game. He said the size of JJ Bennett on the edge, who finished the game with a pair of batted balls, also played a vital role in the Whalers defensive success.
“We played very physical football and I think Mark Willett, our defensive coordinator, deserves a lot of credit for implementing the right defense and putting these players in a position to play fast,” Perry said.
Caspe agreed with Perry, saying he felt very prepared entering the game.
“I felt good the morning of the game because we had prepared really well and the coaches taught us exactly what we needed to know and where we needed to be,” Caspe said. “I felt completely prepared and I know my teammates did as well.”
The Whalers will travel to take on the Mashpee Falcons on Friday, Sept. 17, at 4:30 pm.