EASTHAM — On a windy Wednesday afternoon, the last day of March, the Nauset football team practiced on its home turf. Head Coach Bruce Strunk was firm when he said he needed to see attention to detail. At the same time, when he saw what he was looking for, his comments were aimed at encouraging players’ confidence. In this strange season, motivation is something the team has had to work on.
Nauset, like all Massachusetts high school football teams, had not taken the field in more than a year when the team began practicing in late February.
Then, in mid-March, the Warriors were forced to quarantine for two weeks after a Covid-19 exposure. The team’s first game against the Barnstable Raiders, scheduled for March 20, was canceled. Practice resumed on March 22, just five days before the start of a shortened six-game season. On March 27, the Warriors lost to the Falmouth Clippers, 20-7.
“Coming out of the quarantine, it was tough to get them back into it,” Strunk said of his squad. “Other teams have had to do it, and I’ve talked to other coaches who said the same thing.” Coming out of quarantine, he said, the kids are in a fog.
Senior Patrick Terrio agreed. “As a first-year captain, it’s been hard to get these guys motivated,” he said. “We lost a few players who couldn’t come out due to the virus and our morale was really low” — especially after that first home game against Barnstable was taken away due to Covid, he said. “But when it’s game time, we’re ready to hit.”
Strunk said the Warriors had the best practice of the year at the end of last week as the team prepared for its second game against the Dennis-Yarmouth Dolphins on Saturday, April 3. It was the first home football game for Nauset since Nov. 1, 2019.
In a normal season the rival teams would have played each other in the last regular season game on Thanksgiving Day. Here they were in April, facing each other for the first time.
“It always feels great to play at home, especially versus our rivals,” Terrio said. Terrio grew up and still lives in Dennis but transferred to Nauset in his sophomore year. He ran for two touchdowns in Saturday’s game.
“What I was really looking forward to was playing against all those boys from D-Y after growing up with them,” he said.
Nauset sophomore Dillon White recorded an interception early in the game that gave the Warriors the ball in good field position. Terrio scored the first touchdown of the game to make it 6-0, before the Dolphins answered with two scores in a row to go up 14-6. The Warriors fumbled the ball in the second quarter and the Dolphins took advantage by scoring on another drive to go up 22-6 at halftime.
The deficit didn’t keep Nauset out of the game, though. Terrio scored his second touchdown and White scored a two-point conversion to make the game 22-14 at the end of the third quarter.
“I saw a lot of good things come out of that game,” Terrio said. “We continued to fight, shutting them out in the second half, and we’ve got a lot of young athletes that are stepping up as well.”
Nauset’s junior quarterback, Riley Holmes, threw to White for another touchdown late in the fourth quarter to make the score 22-20, but the Warriors couldn’t convert a two-point attempt. The Dolphins got the ball back and ran the clock out to hold on for a 22-20 victory.
Although the Warriors lost, the team played well against a Dolphins team that has historically won some lopsided games against Nauset.
“I was very happy for the guys,” Strunk said. “At times, they haven’t been able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.” What was key in this game, he said, was that “it was really the first time they looked like they were having fun.
“We just have to move forward and get better as football players,” Strunk added.
“The kids have to keep enjoying this time of their life — especially the seniors,” he continued. “I told them the other day, ‘You’re going to remember this, and it’s either going to be a good memory or a bad one. It’s what you make it.’ ”
There will be no state tournament for football this year, but the Warriors get another shot to play Barnstable, Falmouth, and Dennis-Yarmouth in the remaining three games of the season.
“We will get better — and we are ready for revenge,” Terrio said.