[ccfic caption-text format="plaintext"]
By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Friday night at Turco Field saw a constant display of offensive fireworks as the Walpole Rebels (5-2) took on the rival Needham Rockets (5-2) in each team’s regular season finale.
Behind huge performances from senior receiver Andrew White (nine catches, 155 yards, two touchdowns), senior safety Ethan Kelley (two interceptions) and quarterback Will Jarvis (24 of 33 passes, 295 yards, two passing touchdowns, one rushing touchdown), the Rebels were able to score their way to a 51-26 victory.
A pair of long completions from Jarvis to Chase Conrad (eight catches, 106 yards) set up a 31-yard field goal by Harry Butters on Walpole’s opening drive to give the Rebels a 3-0 lead with 8:20 remaining in the first quarter. Odahri Hibberts (six catches, 11 carries, 94 total yards, one touchdown) responded for Needham, hauling in a 33-yard pass from Charlie Ogletree to set the Rockets up in plus territory before reeling in an over-the-shoulder grab from 38 yards out on third down and 10 to give Needham the lead at 7-3 with 4:51 to play in the quarter.
Drew von Klock immediately responded for the Rebels, returning the ensuing kickoff 63 yards to the Needham 29-yard line. Three plays later, Jarvis found von Klock open in the soft spot of a zone coverage for a 12-yard touchdown connection to give the Rebels back the lead at 10-7 with 2:44 to play in the quarter.
Ethan Kelley picked off an attempted screen pass by Ogletree to give the Rebels the ball deep in Needham territory. Chris Reilly punched the ball in from three yards out five plays later to give Walpole a two-possession lead at 16-7 (PAT no good). The Rebels forced Needham to a three-and-out on their next possession before a 47-yard catch-and-run down to the two by Andrew White set up Walpole with a first and goal. Jarvis snuck the ball in on the next play to extend the Walpole lead to 23-7 with 6:50 to play in the half.
With 3:59 to play in the half and Needham driving and looking to cut the deficit back to a single score, the game’s turning point occurred when Kelley intercepted an Ogletree pass intended for Matt Smith. The senior dashed 65 yards down the far sideline to the end zone to give the Rebels a commanding 30-7 lead.
Despite giving up the score, Needham responded quickly and efficiently as Tyler Reid (28 carries, 140 yards, two touchdowns) capped off a power-run-oriented drive with a four-yard touchdown run to make it a 30-14 game at halftime.
Needham received the ball to begin the second half, but the Walpole defense stood tall by forcing a three-and-out. A trick play by the Rebels on a wide receiver pass from von Klock to White from 34 yards out on the ensuing drive gave Walpole a 37-14 lead with 6:11 to play in the third quarter.
Tyler Reid brought the deficit back to 17 points for Needham with a one-yard touchdown run on the Rockets next series, but a failed two-point try kept it at a 37-20 game with 1:57 to play in the quarter. A long pass connection from Jarvis to Conrad on the final play of the third quarter set up the Rebels deep in Needham territory. A 22-yard high-point catch and run to the end zone by White made it 44-20 with 10:39 remaining in the game before Reilly delivered the back-breaker with a 70-yard touchdown run to bring the Rebels over the half century mark.
Duke-committed tight end Matt Smith added a late 15-yard touchdown reception for Needham to make it a 51-26 contest, but the damage was too much for the Rockets to overcome as the Rebels prevailed with the 35-point victory.
The win helped earn Walpole the No. 2 seed in Division III South, while despite the loss, Needham still earned the No. 2 seed in Division I South. Walpole will take on Plymouth North in the quarterfinals on October 26 at Turco Field, while Needham will host Newton North at Memorial Field that same night.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0.