NORTH EASTHAM – The night started with a celebration, but it ended in disappointment.
Friday served as senior night for the Nauset football and cheerleading programs as both teams celebrated their seniors before the Warriors hosted Carver on the gridiron.
Although the visiting Crusaders left Nauset with a 35-14 victory, it still was a celebratory occasion for the football team’s three seniors — Ashton Nichols, Chad Caramanna and James Souza — as well as the Warriors’ three senior cheerleaders – Brittania Croll, Latanya Porter and Mia Varricchio – all of whom were honored before kickoff.
“It was amazing,” Souza, a Truro resident, said when asked what it was like to play on his homefield for one last night game. “No matter whether it was a win or a loss, I’m just happy that I was able to play with my family.”
Although Carver (3-6) pulled away to earn a comfortable victory, the game was much closer in the first half. Nauset (1-5) trailed 7-6 at the end of the first quarter before taking a 14-6 deficit into halftime. Everything changed after the intermission, though, as the Warriors struggled to keep pace after injuries forced them to insert multiple reserves into the game.
Inexperience has been one area holding Nauset back throughout the season, and Friday’s senior night proved to be no different. Still, Warriors coach Bruce Strunk said even in defeat, he was proud of the way his team battled until the end — most notably until the waning minutes when junior quarterback Dillon White ran for a 1-yard touchdown.
“We’re a very young team, but they showed character tonight,” Strunk said. “Even at the end, when we were down, they marched down and scored at the end. I was very proud of that. They could’ve easily folded and just gave up, but they didn’t.”
White’s touchdown run was the second of two touchdowns the signal-caller played a role in scoring. He connected with his brother Owen, a freshman, for a 40-yard touchdown pass and catch in the opening quarter.
Strunk said he was impressed by the play of both White brothers and noted that Owen has a bright future ahead of him after contributing as a freshman.
“Owen is going to be a really good receiver as he matures and gets a little faster,” Strunk said. “He has great hands and he does a good job.”
Losing its final night game on its homefield wasn’t the outcome the team’s seniors had hoped for, but they were already looking forward to the remainder of the season. Nauset will visit Cape Cod Tech for a 1 p.m. kickoff Saturday in Harwich before closing out its season at home against Dennis-Yarmouth at 10 a.m. Thanksgiving morning.
“I’m excited about D-Y,” Nichols, an Eastham resident, said when asked what he is excited about moving forward. “I want to win that Chowder Cup.”
As much as Strunk would have preferred to see his seniors win their last night game at Nauset, the coach praised the three Warriors for how they have handled this season. It hasn’t always been easy for the team, especially as younger players get acclimated to playing at the varsity level.
The coach said he was proud of his seniors for sticking with the team and noted that they are helping set the groundwork for the future of the program, which Strunk believes is bright considering so many younger players have been asked to contribute ahead of schedule.
“They know what’s going on,” Strunk said in regards to his seniors. “They know that there’s a future and that’s what they are building for. I told them at the beginning of the year that we’re a young team and we’re going to take our lumps, but if we can get better each and every week and we don’t give up and play hard, it’s going to carry us for the next couple seasons.”
Email Brad Joyal at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @BradJoyal