Dawn came a little later to Martha’s Vineyard today as the waning late-summer sun rose over Edgartown Harbor, chasing away the shroud of night and wisps of early morning mist that dance like wraiths across the cerulean waters.  The air is thick with the briny scents of fish and seawater as local fisherman haul in today’s catch while anyone else with a boat and rod competes in the renowned Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby.  Pumpkins line the weathered railings and shelves at the local farms and migrating geese make the island their home for a day or two before continuing their flight south.  The waters around the island are almost as warm as the air itself and each day seems more beautiful than the one before, albeit shorter.  Indeed, when the last rays of today’s September sun vanish beyond the shores of Menemsha beach, setting the sky ablaze in an awe-inspiring eruption of blue, violet, red, orange, yellow and grey, they will do so earlier than yesterday. Tomorrow night will come earlier still.  Yes, after yet another beautiful summer we are welcoming autumn to the Vineyard as we say goodbye to the vacationing families and summertime friends new and old alike. Now is the calm after the storm as local shops and restaurants transition from the busy summer season.

What signals the end of one season however also heralds the beginning of another.  As the tourism industry slows to a crawl local athletics reach a fever pitch with students back in school and back on the field of competition.  As the area plant life fades from lush greens and bright floral tones to the warm reds, yellows and browns that make New England famous, so too will the rusted red pants and light blue collared shirts that typify island life in the summer  be replaced by the rich “Vineyard Purple” of the high school’s athletic teams.  Each September renews the eternal promise of another season filled with high spirits and higher hopes.  The high school fields which lay silent all summer, except of course when Martha’s Vineyard’s beloved Sharks were playing, once again echo with cheering crowds, the crunching crash of colliding pads, the whistling “thwack!” of golfers teeing off, the muted thud of a well-kicked soccer ball, the resounding knock of field hockey sticks, and the lightning-quick pitter patter of track shoes racing by.

Elsewhere all around the island pickup soccer, softball and Frisbee games are springing up as islanders who spent their summer busy working or relaxing on the beach return to the fields to reconnect with the sights and sounds of sport, the smell of grass, and the feel of a ball, bat or disc between their fingers.  Above all, we take comfort in familiar faces and find camaraderie among great friends, great weather and great outdoor fun as Martha’s Vineyard coasts into its fabled golden autumn.

Vineyard Sports & Recreation Blog will cover a variety of random thoughts on all things Martha’s Vineyard. From sailing, tennis, hiking, biking, disc golf to HS & youth sports, and anything in between.

Fall is a favorite time of the year for many on the island. September is summer’s last hurrah and is known for consistently good weather. In addition, the crowds have shrunk (you can actually get into your favorite restaurant), the water is still warm, the Striped Bass & Bluefish fishing derby gets underway and it’s a great time of year for sailing.

Once October arrives the high school sports season is in full swing. MVRHS Field Hockey, Cross Country, Golf and Soccer teams are striving for qualification in post season action. Coach Herman’s football team is always hoping for another super season and their Friday night games are great fun.

The islands of Nantucket and the Vineyard have been fierce sports rivals for years. No matter the season both island’s high school teams circle the date of their match when the team’s sports schedules are released.

The Vineyarder’s and Whaler’s football teams have been meeting on the gridiron for 50 years. For most high schools the annual Thanksgiving football games between arch rivals can make or break their season.  The stakes are even higher when the Whalers and Islanders meet in their annual game the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  The winner of the game earns bragging rights to the coveted “Island Cup” trophy until their next meeting.

Last year the Cup game was cancelled due to budget constraints. There was much hand wringing and finger pointing on both sides.  It was more than just a game. For former players, current players and anyone with an island connection, it was part of Thanksgiving. The resulting firestorm even drew the attention of the national media with stories in USA Today and the Wall Street Journal.

Islanders are a hardy lot (as anyone that has spent time here during the winter can attest) and accustomed to fighting uphill battles. It is part of what defines them. With that makeup both sides worked together and were able to iron out the issues that had caused cancellation of the game. The Island Cup has been revived for 2010.

With the Cup back, the rivalries between all the high school teams have been renewed. Recently the island’s field hockey teams battled to a scoreless tie on Nantucket.  The tie clinched the Vineyard a spot in the state play-offs.

Over the past few years the Vineyard has held the upper hand on the gridiron. They have won nine of the last ten Island Cup’s against the Whaler’s. Nantucket still holds an edge in the overall record. With Thanksgiving just a few scant weeks away now all the talk can focus on more important issues. Do the Vineyarder’s have the right stuff to continue their winning ways against the dreaded Whaler’s from Nantucket?