HARWICH ─ The Monomoy football team might not have the best record around, but at 4-6 after a thrilling 28-26 victory over the Bourne Canalmen last Thursday, the Sharks are now the winningest football team in Monomoy Regional High School history.
“It's definitely one of the greatest feelings ever,” said senior Nick Malone, one of four seniors on the football team who were celebrated prior to the start of the game. “We've been down for the past five so getting that win was amazing. We all just came together in a way that we haven't.”
It wasn't an easy win, but the stalwart Sharks refused to give up, even after Bourne put the first touchdown of the game on the scoreboard after winning the coin toss at game's start. Undaunted, Monomoy responded with a score of their own courtesy of a 24-yard dash by junior Riley Demanche, which, after a failed two-point conversion, narrowed the Canalmen's lead to 8-6.
A scoreless second quarter saw the Sharks make some adjustments, including moving Jake Wisniewski into the tight end spot and Eli Nickerson to fullback, shifts that, according to Monomoy head coach Paul “Spanky” Demanche, proved positive.
“The switch of making Jake a tight end and moving Eli to fullback paid some dividends. Eli just gives a little more quickness there, and when Jake gets open he's tough to bring down in the open field, and he can catch the ball well,” Demanche said. “Those were good switches we made for now and in the future.”
Bourne again took the lead on its first possession following the break, but Monomoy roared back on a 48-yard shot from senior quarterback Ryan Downs to Wisniewski, who raced it in along the left sideline, with Isaac Hart sending a nice kick through the uprights to tie the game at 14-even.
In keeping with the trading points pattern of the outing, the Canalmen surged ahead in the game's final frame, but the Sharks were quick to reply with Downs diving across the end zone for a TD, followed by another solid Hart kick that put Monomoy ahead by one point at 21-20.
Nickerson then seized a loose ball on Bourne's next play, running it in from 25 yards out to give the Sharks an eight-point edge. From there it was a true nail biter as Bourne scored again with less than two minutes on the clock, but had their attempt at a conversion thwarted, leaving Monomoy in the lead.
As the clock ticked down, the Canalmen made one final attempt to score during their last possession, but an alert and agile Connor Santoni made a spectacular leaping interception of a Bourne pass, clinching an exciting senior night win for the Sharks.
“That's just a game that means a lot to me, especially with the fact that we haven't done that since my freshman year,” said Malone. “Along with having the O-line play the best that they've ever played.”
Demanche was also thrilled with the win.
“It's been a long drought, six weeks since we won a football game,” he said.
He was especially pleased with his team's resilience and unwillingness to give up without a battle.
“We fell behind and they just kept plugging,” he said. “One of the things that the coaches talk about all the time is next play. We scored the same number of touchdowns and we stopped three of their two-point conversions. That's the next play that we stopped.”
Demanche said he hopes that the lessons regarding overcoming adversity extend beyond the gridiron.
“We preach all the time, and you hope that it sinks in that the kids just continue to fight,” Demanche said. “What I said to them at the end of the game is that what you're fighting for now is football, but the lessons you learn we hope carry over into the bigger picture.”
He said that as friends, husbands and fathers in the future there will be bigger challenges than football, but that the lessons learned on the turf could go a long way if allowed.
“You've got to overcome some tough things in your life,” he said. “These are the kind of lessons you hope carry over.”
Demanche said the game changer was his team's attitude.
“We're down two, they come out and score right away but we stopped that two-point conversion, and then we went on a nice sustained drive, were able to punch it in and tie it up,” Demanche said. “Our ability to stop the two-point play was crucial. When you fall behind two scores with what they're doing offensively, I think it's really tough for us. Then we hit the big play with Jake and now all of a sudden we've got things rolling a little bit, and then they turn it over and we get on top and now they're chasing us.”
Along with Wisniewski, Nickerson, and Hart, Demanche praised the work of Downs, who was cheered on by a small contingency of fans from Dennis-Yarmouth, where Downs originally attended school.
“Ryan is just steady,” Demanche said. “He doesn't make the big mistake. He's disciplined and has gotten better at not throwing the ball into coverage. Those things are pluses for us.”
Next up for the Sharks is their second annual Thanksgiving Day game against Sacred Heart Kingston, this year to be played at home with a 10 a.m. kickoff on the turf at Monomoy High. Demanche has his sights set on a positive outcome.
“I'm happy for the seniors. They've had a long haul,” he said. “Some of them, a kid like Malone, a four-year-kid, have been just fighting their way through it constantly and being beaten down, so for them to be part of the most wins in school history that's the feather in the cap, and we're going to try to do it again.”