By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Friday night’s Bay State Conference contest between the Needham Rockets (1-1) and Walpole Rebels (0-2) was truly a battle of wills. With both sides entering at 0-1 on the young season, the Rebels and Rockets were eying their first win of the year, but also a key win against a rival conference opponent in some non-ideal conditions, to say the least.
Just before the game’s opening kickoff, a torrential downpour tore through Memorial Field. The onslaught of rain continued until about midway through the second quarter when the pouring turned to a light sprinkle. However, the field was completely soaked due to its location at the bottom of the hill at NHS, and the entirety of the game saw sloppy play on both sides, with fumbled snaps, players slipping, and play-calling turning to mainly inside runs.
Both offenses did what they could with the wet footballs early on. About half way through the first quarter, Needham had a 79-yard touchdown run by Odahri Hibberts on a sweep play to the outside called back on a block in the back. With Hibberts’ score taken off the board, the Rebels and Rockets remained deadlocked at zeros at the half.
The third quarter saw more of the same, with both sides exchanging four straight punts due to the wet conditions, as the game entered the fourth quarter still scoreless. With just under nine minutes remaining in the contest, however, Needham finally broke the scoreless drought as junior quarterback Charlie Ogletree dropped back and launched a bomb to senior captain and wide receiver John Andre, who corralled it and scrambled 66 yards for a touchdown.
The Rebels blocked the ensuing extra point to keep it at a 6-0 deficit, but that would be all the scoring that Needham would need, as the Rocket defense stood tall on Walpole’s final two possession. A pass break-up on fourth down by senior captain and defensive back Thomas Hickey gave Needham back the ball in the final minutes and allowed Ogletree to kneel to the Rockets’ first victory of the season.
The Rockets will look to make it two in a row when they host Newton North on September 23 at 1 p.m., while Barry Greener’s Rebels will try to lock up their first win of the year in their home opener against rival Norwood.
For funny and incisive sports analysis, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter at @fLAno0, or read his blog at www.flannylive.wordpress.com.