Rivalry football game between Martha’s Vineyard, Nantucket canceled

Martha’s Vineyard Regional High coach Ryan Kent, shown with players (from left) Sam Rollins, Cooper Bennett, and Zachary Moreis, said he was concerned about safety. –Julia Cumes for The Boston Globe

OAK BLUFFS — The weathered sign outside the high school here lists year after year of past glory for Martha’s Vineyard football. Five Super Bowl championships and nine league titles, triumphs that created cherished memories across generations.

But this fall, the sign stands as a bittersweet reminder of what has been lost. For only the second time, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket will not renew their traditional rivalry Saturday to play for the prized Island Cup, a fall tradition that attracts thousands of fans and alumni and is a point of intense local pride.

Martha’s Vineyard reluctantly canceled the game early this month because its once powerhouse program had dwindled to just 14 varsity-level players. Some blame the fear of concussions for the decline, others point to the growing popularity of soccer. Whatever the reason, hundreds of Vineyarders will not be boarding a chartered ferry to Nantucket to root for their team, as is the custom.