By Max Clifford
Hometown Weekly Correspondent
Walpole’s 31-14 victory over Needham was bookended by thrilling plays from both sides — in fact, anyone who missed the first minute or the last three minutes of the game may have characterized the high scoring affair as a defensive struggle.
It took the Needham offense no time at all to find a crack in Walpole’s notoriously stingy defense as quarterback Ben Chapman found wide receiver Marcus Fuentes for an 80-yard touchdown pass just 18 seconds into the game.
In the second quarter, a few negative runs and a sack by Walpole linebacker Matt Reynard had Needham facing a fourth down. Needing 13 yards, Ben Chapman got the first and much more, finding his brother, wide receiver Spencer Chapman, in the end-zone to put Needham up, 14-0.
After scoring just three points in the first half, the Walpole offense was looking for the end-zone in the third quarter. Quarterback Corey Kilroy kept the ball on the ground for the Timberwolves’ first touchdown, scrambling to the edge for 25 yards and the score.
The score held at 14-10 for most of the fourth quarter. With under five minutes to play, Walpole linebacker Andrew Falzone intercepted a Ben Chapman pass to give the offense the ball at the Needham 20. A few plays later, facing a fourth and five, Kilroy aimed for the end-zone and put the ball where only 6’7” Sean O’Brien could catch it. O’Brien’s touchdown put Walpole up, 17-14 — their first lead of the game.
On the ensuing Needham drive, O’Brien proved once again that size matters as a Ben Chapman pass could not find its way through his outstretched hands. O’Brien’s pick-six, his second touchdown in under a minute, had Walpole out in front by two scores after trailing for the first 45 minutes of the game.
In the final minute of regulation, Needham experienced a bit of deja vu as a Falzone takeaway set up the offense for a final shot to the end-zone. With just 15 seconds left to play, Kilroy aired the ball out, finding O’Brien for a 60-yard touchdown, his third in the final three minutes of the game.
After the game, Walpole head coach Chris Sullivan explained that his decision to try for a touchdown while winning by 10 points, a decision that likely upset some Needham fans, was a product of the MIAA playoff seeding system. He said “We need max value points in this new playoff system,” said Coach Sullivan. “This is probably gonna be a learning curve for everybody. A 14-point differential could mean the difference between a home game and an away game to start the playoffs … it may [not] look classy, but it’s something we had to do.”