There’s a first time for everything. For Upper Cape Tech football, it’s a first time for many things.
The small vocational school (roughly 700 students) in Bourne is competing in its second year of varsity football and the Rams are 5-0 midway through the season. In its inaugural season, Upper Cape finished 2-8.
“Last year was a building block for everyone,” said coach Mike Hernon, who previously coached at South Shore Vocational. “This year we have full support from the teachers and community, the school does a great job in taking care of our needs. If you want a good program it needs to come from the top.”
With a year under its belts, the difference at Upper Cape is simply experience for the coaches and players. As a staff, Hernon acknowledges he and his coaches are more consistent, while the athletes are playing with commitment.
The motivation for the Rams is to do something that has never been done before at Upper Cape, which opened its doors in 1966.
“With a new program like this, you could present a new challenge to them every week,” Hernon explained. “For example, our first home game ever on our field, our first league game ever, and so forth.”
It started at the beginning of the season when Upper Cape (Division 5) scrimmaged Falmouth (Division 2A) and matched its opponent’s intensity and physicality. But the Rams aren’t blowing teams out, they’re just playing smart football.
In four of its five games Upper Cape needed crucial defensive stops late in the fourth quarter. Saturday against South Shore, Dylan Derby intercepted a pass with over a minute left in the game to seal a 22-14 victory.
Reflecting on those matchups and last year’s outcome, Hernon says these experiences help improve his team and keep them confident.
“At a vocational school it’s different,” said Hernon. “You have to kind of mold [the kids] into one. They come from rival towns, they aren’t supposed to like each other. It’s amazing watching it happen, though. We have a tight group.”
Upper Cape — which draws players from Wareham, Bourne, Sandwich, Falmouth, and Marian — is led by senior captains Edgar Eldredge, Andrew Fisher, and Greg Hill.
“All three of them complement each other well and bring a different aspect of leadership,” said Hernon. “Edgar is the outspoken one, Andrew is kind of our emotional leader, and Greg is the guy that everyone can go to.”
With 10 returning starters, the Rams have a veteran offense that is averaging 23.4 points per game. Speedy running back Jon Dumont, who sat out Week 4 with an injury, has been a key to their success in part due to his hard work in the offseason. In four games, he’s rushed for 712 yards and scored nine touchdowns.
On defense, the front seven consists of mostly seniors, while the secondary has some younger players. Defensive coordinator Tom Cadieux, who coached at Dartmouth for more than 30 years, has been a huge asset.
However, it all falls back to the one goal of doing something that has never been done before.
Saturday, the Rams head to Nantucket to take on the defending Mayflower League Small champions. It’ll be an opportunity for Upper Cape to get its first win on the island.
“The kids understand the moment, understand what we’re doing right now,” Hernon said. “We’re leaving a very good legacy so far and hopefully we keep that rolling.”
With their success, Hernon tries to keep his kids humble and make sure they don’t get caught up in the moment. The win over South Shore was emotional for him and the team, but that’s already in the past. For Upper Cape, it’s all about having a positive attitude and trying to improve every day.
“Since we’re undefeated, the target is on our back,” said Hernon. “Being 5-0 is great for the school and to get Upper Cape football on the map, but everyone is in the running for it in our league. We have to be ready to go every game and keep moving forward here.”
Northeast 32, Manchester 14 — Kenny Bartolo rushed for 200 yards, scoring two touchdowns and a conversion for the visiting Golden Knights.
Football players of the week at Boston.com/schools.