EASTHAM — Despite the adversity they faced this season, Nauset High’s football team competed until the end, and that was more than evident in the Warriors’ 35-32 loss to Dennis-Yarmouth Regional on Thanksgiving in the 27th edition of the Chowder Cup.
“These guys showed up,” said Nauset head coach Jesse Peno. At one point during the season, he had lost 17 players to injuries. “It was a small roster all year — that’s kind of the way it is — but I told them in the post-game, they just keep fighting,” he said. “Being in a battle with a playoff team like D-Y, I’m just so proud of them.”
The Warriors opened the season on Sept. 8 with a 40-15 home loss to Norwell, and they waited until Oct. 20 for their first win. That came two weeks after they had to forfeit their game with Barnstable.
“In 20 years of coaching, this is one of my favorite teams I’ve ever coached, and it’s not about wins and losses,” said Peno. “They could’ve packed it in after the second or third week and said this isn’t our year, but they never went through the motions. They just accepted the next challenge.”
Nauset, which finished the season at 2-7, not only shocked Dennis-Yarmouth (7-4) with an onside kick at the opening kickoff that was recovered by junior Isaiah Robinson, but the Warriors then drove to the goal line in six plays, finishing with a one-yard touchdown run by senior Logan Daniels Julien.
Daniels Julien, who was named the Warriors’ offensive MVP following a 15-carry, 75-yard performance, later added a second rushing touchdown — punching in from four yards out — to give Nauset a 12-0 lead early in the second quarter.
“We came out fast, and I told the guys, you don’t want to be trailing against this team — you want to put them in scramble mode,” said Peno, whose game plan changed when junior wide receiver and linebacker Owen White exited with an injury. “These two teams bring out the best in each other, and we’re trying to get up to their level as far as history goes. It’s a great rivalry.”
White’s departure seemed to be the wake-up call Dennis-Yarmouth needed. The Dolphins got on the board with 3:12 remaining in the first half, as Jayden Barber threw a 10-yard touchdown pass to Jake Bohlin.
Nauset added a third touchdown with a five-yard run by sophomore quarterback Brendan Peno, and it looked like the Warriors would take their lead into halftime. But Barber got free for a 58-yard scamper up the sideline with 20 seconds left in the half to put the Dolphins ahead 21-18.
The Warriors — undeterred by how the first half had ended — went 52 yards in six plays to open the third quarter, a drive capped by an 18-yard touchdown pass from Peno to senior Liam Johnston. The two-point conversion made it 26-21 Nauset.
But as in last year’s Chowder Cup, no lead was safe. Dennis-Yarmouth overtook the Warriors 28-26 with 8:22 to go when Barber connected with Peyton Kellett on a four-yard touchdown pass.
Nauset edged back in front three minutes later when Peno scampered 21 yards for his second rushing touchdown of the day to make it 32-28. All they needed to do now was hang on.
But Barber, who was 16 of 28 through the air for 226 yards and three touchdowns and added another on the ground, rushing for 138 yards, wasn’t done. He found Oliver Doto for a 13-yard touchdown with 3:33 left, which accounted for the 35-32 final score.
Senior Kieran Handville — standing in under center for Peno, who had been injured on the previous play — saw his fourth-down pass attempt fall to the turf, ending the game.
“I’m hoping that we’ve got guys —” began Daniels Julien after the game before cutting himself off. “We do have guys to continue building this program. The fans saw how we carried ourselves the whole season and how we never gave up.”
The Warriors had five Cape & Islands all-league team selections, including Daniels Julien, Robinson, White, Handville, and junior Peter Silvernail. Senior Evan Archer was an honorable mention.
A win on Thanksgiving, which would be Nauset’s first since 2018, will have to wait another year.
Saturday, Dec. 2
Boys hockey: Nauset travels to Plymouth South for a scrimmage at 10 a.m. at Armstrong Arena.
Girls basketball: The Warriors are at Toll Gate High School for an 11 a.m. scrimmage.
Sunday, Dec. 3
Boys hockey: The Warriors host Newington High School for an 11 a.m. scrimmage at Charles Moore Arena.