SANDWICH – The future looks bright for the Monomoy Regional High School football program.
That was one of the big takeaways from the Sharks’ 56-26 loss to St. John Paul on Thanksgiving Eve. Despite the end result, Monomoy’s players and coaches left the Sandwich Pop Warner field optimistic about what the future holds after yet another season that was impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Most of that optimism is rooted in the team’s offense, which produced four passing touchdowns in the season-ending loss.
“I can’t say enough about my offense,” Monomoy coach Larry Souza said after the team finished 2-4. “They executed everything I asked them to. I couldn’t have asked for better execution of the offense.”
Despite freezing temperatures throughout the game, the Sharks displayed an aerial attack unlike anything the offense had produced this fall. Sophomore quarterback Jake Vagenas threw two touchdown passes to senior Michael Rocco and two more to his classmate Quinn Connors.
The signal-caller’s first TD pass came late in the first quarter after St. John Paul II had established a 14-0 lead behind two touchdown runs by Henry Tatara, who finished with five rushing scores in all. Vagenas found Connors for a 64-yard TD strike; he then connected with Rocco for 50 and 44-yard scores in the second quarter to help Monomoy take a 28-20 deficit into halftime.
“It was good to see things clicking on the offensive end,” said Rocco, a Harwich resident. “Once we got the run going, we got the play action going.”
Souza noted the play-action pass packages were new wrinkles implemented before the game.
“We put in that play-action stuff this week,” he said. “You noticed it froze the linebackers and we got the play-action passes across the top twice for touchdowns.”
Vagenas and Connors linked up through the air once more in the fourth quarter for an 11-yard touchdown, though that was hardly enough to keep pace with the Lions, who scored 14 points in each quarter.
Still, the end result didn’t sour Monomoy’s mood entirely. The players were able to look at the outcome as the end of another chapter that brings the Sharks’ program closer to where it wants to be.
“I didn’t really play a huge part in it tonight — I had a couple big runs — but to see it come together tonight with the passing and the linemen connecting, it made me really hopeful that next year is going to be great,” said senior Shaw Schuyler, a Harwich native. “We’re one of the newest programs on the Cape and it’s tough trying to get people to join when it’s a new program. It makes me happy knowing a lot of these guys are going to be coming back and the program will continue to build.”
Souza said it is “huge” that Vagenas and Connors have two more seasons together after establishing a bond this season.
“It’s huge with them having a couple more years left,” the coach said. “I keep saying, ‘Gee, I would’ve loved to have had Michael Rocco since he was in eighth grade’ because Michael brought so much to the team this year — he was invaluable.”
Rocco was one of the big surprises of this season, which saw Monomoy play a hybrid schedule against both varsity and junior varsity teams due to low numbers. The senior made his high school football debut and had such a good time this fall that he’s considering continuing his career at the next level.
“I would love to play college ball. I think it would be fun,” Rocco said. “I loved being out here with everyone. I didn’t know I would be this close to anyone on the team because I was new. They took me in well and we all started to love each other, which was great to see.”
Souza said he believes the program will benefit from this year’s hybrid model.
“I think it had the intended result,” he said. “We became a closer, tighter, better football team.”
Now the Sharks look ahead to next fall.
“We told them the preseason starts now,” the coach said.
Email Brad Joyal at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @BradJoyal