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By Michael Flanagan
Hometown Weekly Sports Editor
Coming off a 6-0 victory over Walpole last Friday night in the rain, the Needham Rockets (2-1) hosted Bay State Conference rival Newton North on Saturday afternoon looking to making it two wins in a row. Thanks to some explosive plays on offense in the second half by sophomore Odhari Hibberts (150 total yards, two touchdowns) the Rockets prevailed with a 28-27 victory.
Tight defensive play by both the Tigers (0-3) and Rockets kept the game scoreless after one quarter of play. Noah Neville drew first blood for Newton North with a 15-yard touchdown reception with 5:58 remaining in the first half, and the Tigers converted a two-point try to give themselves an 8-0 lead. However, the Rockets responded immediately on their ensuing possession, as senior quarterback Charlie Sumner hooked up with junior wideout Matt Smith for a 54-yard touchdown down the far sideline to cut it to a one-point game at the half at 8-7 (PAT good).
Needham took the ball to begin the second half, and it didn’t take long for the Rockets to get the offense going. Just 20 seconds into the third quarter, junior quarterback Charlie Ogletree hit Hibberts for a 59-yard touchdown to give Needham it’s first lead of the contest at 14-8.
The Rocket defense stepped up mightily and forced a fumble on Newton North’s next possession, giving Charlie Sumner and the Needham offense excellent field position deep in Tiger territory. Three plays later, Sumner made North pay for the costly fumble, punching in a one-yard quarterback keeper to extend the Needham lead to 21-8.
Newton North responded with a touchdown on their final possession of the third quarter (two-point try unsuccessful), and cut it to a 21-14 game at the end of three. A 90-yard touchdown run by Will Thompson tied the game at 21 for Newton North early in the fourth quarter. The Tigers would recover an onside kick and take a 27-21 lead off of a 39-yard touchdown pass with 9:15 to play.
With a little under three minutes to play, Hibberts capped off a nine-play drive with his second touchdown of the day, rushing the ball in from three yards out to reclaim the lead for Needham at 28-27.
Newton North drove into Needham territory on their final possession of the game but the potential game-winning field goal came up short and allowed Needham to hang on for the 28-27 victory.
Needham will return to the gridiron and look to make it three straight wins on Thursday evening when they host Weymouth.