Pictured returning a kickoff last season against Natick, junior Marcus Fuentes (3) will return to his normal special teams duties for Needham High football this fall along with transitioning from running back to wideout. Photos by Mike Flanagan.
By Mike Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Last season did not go how Needham High School football had hoped. After the season was pushed back from the fall of 2020 to the spring of 2021, Needham played a condensed, five-game schedule with no playoffs. The Rockets finished with a record of 2-3, which included a pair of shutout losses at home to arch rivals Natick (35-0) and Wellesley (34-0).
With life beginning to turn back to normal this fall, Needham will enter the 2021 season motivated to improve their record and compete for both the Bay State Conference title, as well as a spot in the Division I South playoffs.
Leading Needham in 2021 are six senior co-captains: cornerback Ryan Hannigan, linebacker Adrian Rufo, offensive lineman Nick Dugan, defensive lineman Hanson Miller, linebacker Will Harris and tight end John Ogletree.
Also back for Needham are senior wideout Edgar Vasquez and junior return-man Marcus Fuentes. Fuentes will transition from running back to wide receiver. Asked about his team's general expectations and goals for the season, Fuentes says watching Wellesley raise The Frederick J. Gorman Centennial Trophy on Memorial Field last season motivated him and his teammates to not allow history to repeat itself.
"Some general expectations for us are to definitely get some revenge on those teams [Natick and Wellesley] because, believe me, those losses still sting," said Fuentes. "I was only a sophomore watching Wellesley hold up the trophy and it still hit hard. We are all in the hunt for that to be back where it belongs [in Needham]. As a team, we’re just looking to make some moves this year and to shock the league, but it all starts week one."
With Will McDonald graduating last May, Jay Kastantin will transition from his natural wide receiver position and take over as Needham's new starting quarterback. Fuentes says he believes Kastantin's natural arm strength, along with Needham's revamped group of receivers, will surprise a lot of people in 2021.
"We’ve been on the hunt recently to see who would be taking on the challenge of playing quarterback," said Fuentes. "But, once Jay Kastantin showed off his natural arm talent, we went right to work to build fundamentals and helping him learn to make reads. All I can say is the kid has potential and you should keep an eye out for him. As far as our new receiver set, younger guys like me were able to sit behind those seniors last year and learn a lot. I’ll be making a switch over from running back to wide receiver."
As far as Needham's training methods leading up the 2021 season, Fuentes says the quick turnaround from spring ball has allowed him and his teammates to stay focused on football and staying in shape.
"This short break from football was kind of nice," said Fuentes. "It feels good because it feels like we haven’t left. Since the end of the last season we haven't stopped working. Wideouts have been doing weekly throwing sessions with Jay, our new quarterback, and we’ve just been working on building chemistry both on and off the field. It’s definitely been easier to focus on football since we never really left that kind of mood. We’ve just been in go-mode since the our last game."
Needham will open up the 2021 season on the road against Natick on September 10.
For funny and incisive sports analysis as well as video highlights of games, follow Mike Flanagan on his personal Twitter and Instagram handles @flano0.