Needham Hurdles Past Weymouth, 45-28
The Rockets' running back tandem, Riley and Vespa, helped Needham's offense record six touchdowns against the Wildcats on Saturday, Oct. 1.
Before the 2011 high school football season began, Needham Rockets varsity football head coach Dave Duffy, as well as senior captains Drew Burnett and Mark Riley, expressed in a preseason interview that Weymouth would be their most challenging opponent this year.
On Saturday, Duffy’s team aced their toughest test of the season, as the Rockets beat up the Weymouth Wildcats, 45-28 at Memorial Field.
“It was a hard hitting game. Weymouth was hitting us hard, we were hitting Weymouth hard and it was truly a battle,” Duffy said. “We scored 45 points. That’s the second most since I’ve been here and we were just driving down the field [and] Weymouth had a great attack and [the] turnovers were even, the penalties were even and it just came down to [the fact] that we made the plays and Weymouth played tough, but they couldn’t do it.”
Needham’s offense struggled to start the game, as Weymouth’s senior defensive back Shawn Whouley picked off Burnett during the Rockets' opening drive, which resulted in a quick seven points for the Wildcats offense.
Needham responded immediately on their ensuing possession, which resulted in Burnett connecting with junior wide receiver Nico Panepinto to tie the game. Burnett also found senior tailback Ian Riley on a 29-yard pass in the second quarter, which gave Needham the momentum heading into halftime.
“We knew that [Weymouth] would come out strong in the second half and we just tried to get everyone [on the same page at halftime],” Burnett said. “[We] didn’t want to come out too fired up—too over anxious—but we came out with the right intensity and we got it done.”
Entering the second half, the Rockets caught the Wildcats' special teams off guard with an onside-kick to start the third quarter, which resulted in a Burnett third touchdown strike to Panepinto.
Yet, Needham’s lead wasn’t totally safe, as Weymouth’s senior quarterback Cam McLevedge connected with senior teammate Khary Bailey-Smith for two back-to-back scores before the Rockets' defense tallied three interceptions and one forced fumble on the Wildcats' final drive of the game.
“It’s a very disappointing game. We practiced [this past] week on what they were going to do, [and] we didn’t accomplish what we wanted to do,” Weymouth’s McLevedge said. “I take a lot of blame for the game, made a lot of bad reads, [but] we've just got to bounce back for next week and just see what we do in the rest of the season.”
After the game, Duffy said he was pleased with his running backs, Ian Riley and Mike Vespa, who combined for 279 yards and three rushing touchdowns.
“We [were] working on running the ball all week,” Duffy said. “We've got four good running backs and we try to give them the ball. Ian got tired there late in the game, so we put Vespa in. He usually blocks, so it’s nice for him to carry the ball a lot. They both did a great job.”
Next up for the Rockets: They’ll travel to Brookline on Sunday, Oct. 9 for a 1:00 p.m. kick-off.