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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Despite being down their starting versatile running back/slot man Odahri Hibbert (arm), the Needham High School football team was able to take care of business on the road last Friday night at Hopkinton with a convincing 28-7 victory.
Duke-committed tight end and senior captain of the Rockets (2-0) Matthew Smith simply took over the game, logging nine catches for 206 yards and a pair of touchdowns to help lead his team to victory.
The game remained scoreless until late in the first quarter when Needham blocked a punt and recovered the ball inside the Hopkinton 30-yard-line. Three plays later, senior captain and quarterback Charlie Ogletree hooked up with Smith from 28 yards out in the back left corner of the end zone as Smith battled through coverage and made a sensational highlight-reel catch to give the Rockets a 7-0 lead with 29 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
After the teams exchanged punts, it was again Smith who made a big play to get the Rockets into scoring position, this time hauling in an over-the-shoulder catch for a gain of 48 yards inside the Hopkinton 20-yard-line. Tyler Reid capped off the drive five plays later with a four-yard touchdown run to extend Needham’s lead to 14-0 with 1:23 remaining in the half.
Needham’s offense continued to thrive in the second half as Reid’s second score of the game, this time from 48 yards out on a run up the middle on fourth-and-one, extended the edge to 21-0 with 7:08 to play.
The Rockets took their 21-0 lead into the fourth quarter and Smith put the nail in the coffin with his second touchdown of the game on a 23-yard catch-and-run with 8:59 remaining. Hopkinton cut the deficit to 28-7 with 3:28 to play, but Needham’s defense ended the game with a goal-line stand to come away with the 21-point victory.
“Great deal of hustle and a great deal of team pride was on display tonight,” said Needham head coach Doug Kopsco following the victory. “Even down at the end there when it looked like they were on the cusp of scoring again, our guys stuck together. We had a bunch of guys both JV, varsity, seniors, underclassmen, hang in there together. Our offense did a great job. We had a depleted squad this week. Coach Thornton did a great job calling the plays offensively and changing our offense entirely in a week, so [I’m] just real proud of everyone both players and staff, and we came away with the result we wanted.”
As for Matthew Smith, Coach Kopsco says that Friday’s performance was par for the course for the future Blue Devil, both from production and leadership standpoints.
“You can’t say enough about him,” said Kopsco. “Matt’s a phenomenal talent, a phenomenal person. Ultimately, when the game is on the line, he’s definitely the guy you want getting the ball, so he’s done a great job for us. We’re just going to continue to ride him over the next couple of weeks and let him kind of carry us offensively while guys like Tyler [Reid], [Garrett] Hirsch, and [Jack] Murmes bring their own specific skills and talents to the game.”
With two wins under their belts, the Rockets will look to move to 3-0 when they get Hibbert back against Newton North on September 22.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0.