Hope everyone is enjoying this Black Friday, whether you have to go out shopping or not. Anyway with another Friday comes another exciting edition of Raider Friday Trivia! Today’s question is… when was the last time (before yesterday) that Wellesley beat Needham 2 years in a row on Thanksgiving? Answer tomorrow!
Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving, as it was a beautiful day and as always this morning a packed house over at Hunnewell Field was treated to the 130th installment of Wellesley vs. Needham. Having won last year and holding a 61-59-9 lead all time, the Raiders were not only looking to end the season above 500 but also get a win in the first Thanksgiving game played on the turfed Hunnewell Field. The capacity crowd certainly got their money’s worth as it vintage Wellesley-Needham fashion it was a back and forth game that literally came down to the final play. Could the Raiders pull it off, let’s find out!
Result for 11-23-17
Football: Wellesley 23 Needham 20
Team finishes season 6-5. Congratulations on your second straight victory of the Rockets, and to the seniors best of luck in your future endeavors!
On this rainy day before Thanksgiving, with less than 24 hours to go till kickoff of the 130th Wellesley-Needham game, another annual tradition took place at Memorial Field in Needham, with the annual Powderpuff Game between the Wellesley and Needham senior women. Wellesley had not won this game since 2010, and it had been even longer since they had won in Needham. Could the girls end the streak and bring the trophy back home, let’s find out!
Result for 11-22-17
Powderpuff: Wellesley 20 Needham 0
We have gone under the 24 hour mark till kickoff and now it’s time to take a look at this year’s Wellesley Raiders, who enter Thanksgiving with a 5-5 record. The Raiders finished their regular season 3-4, missing the playoffs but bounced back nicely in the consolation rounds, winning 2 out of their last 3 heading into their showdown with the Rockets. I was able to catch up with Rebekah Caron, sports producer at Wellesley Media, to get her insights into this years Raider team as they get ready to host the Rockets tomorrow, here’s what she had to say!
Q: What have been your overall impressions of this year’s team, as they head into Thanksgiving?
A: I’ve liked what I’ve seen, obviously losing to Walpole & Hingham wasn’t what they wanted. But they lost a LOT of their core offense from last year, & seeing them in their home opener run over CC really showed what an Impact Raiders offense can have. And of course, the defense. No matter who graduates, they still hold a core defense that can be consistent &suffocating, the duo of Gus Saint Fort & Josh Cohen in the middle continues to be game changing.
Q: Which players have stood out most to you, and what players have surprised you most this season?
A: QB & Capt Jack Tishman has been a leader from the first snap. He’s got the arm, & can do a lot of damage down the field. But it’s also his running skills that stand out. Running the QB Option, Tishman can & will eat up a ton of Real Estate. I think losing too offensive players like Brendan Dolan& Grant Chryssicas is a void that honestly you can’t 100% fill, but what surprised me was how much D’Aunte Moore & Hugh Callahan made their own name as Wide Receiver’s and were instrumental in Wellesley’s victories this season. I think the most surprising though, is the Freshman RB, Shiloh White. Breakout Speed up the middle, down the sidelines, not big on size, still White is tough to tackle.
Q: The team obviously missed the playoffs this year for the first time since 2014, what do you think was the biggest factor behind that?
A: Despite all the positives I mentioned, there was also just too many
inconsistencies with this year’s team. Getting blown out by Hingham & on the road at Milton was surprising as contest with these 2 opponents the last few seasons have been competitive, so there would be games where the offense &defense would dominate, but other games defense would not be able to stop the opponent & Raiders would find themselves down early & big, and not be able to cut the deficit. And those inconsistencies in the end really impacted the outcome of games and miss the playoffs.
Q: Having been covering the Thanksgiving game and Raider sports in general for the 7 years, what makes the Needham rivalry so special?
A: This rivalry I’ve said from day one, is Red Sox/Yankees no matter the
sport. It’s heated, its intense, there so much talent on both sides, even if team records may be different, the competitiveness is never missing once game time hits. Every player when they come in as Seniors, every game is important, but the question always is, yeah but did you beat Needham your senior year? Now for Needham/Wellesley FB, what are we at? The 130th Thanksgiving contest? This rivalry means just as much now, as it did that first year, so despite it being well over 100 years the rivalry has never lost its steam. And for FB what sets it apart even more I think, is that during the regular season schedule, any other HS sport, these teams would meet up. But For FB, Rockets and Raiders don’t play each other. The first time they meet is at Thanksgiving, so all that tension, all that intensity is ‘bottled’ up the whole season, ready to just battle for 4 Quarters. It truly is a HS rivalry like no other!
Q: What does Wellesley need to do in this year’s game to get their second straight win over the Rockets?
A: Be consistent, don’t make the mental mistakes. Just run the ball down Rockets Throats, use Shiloh White, Run the Option for Jack Tishman. Run it successfully and the play action will just fall into place. Tishman does an excellent job on the QB Rollout. O Line give Tishman time, & WR D’Aunte Moore & Hugh Callahan will help do the rest. This is the last HS Game ever for 19 Seniors. Just leave it all on the field. Hold nothing back & make some memories you won’t forget.
With just over 48 hours to go before the Wellesley-Needham showdown, it’s time to take a look at this year’s version of the Needham Rockets from someone who knows them best. Needham comes in with a 6-4 record, and earned a berth in the D1 South playoffs where they fell to Xaverian in the semifinals. I had the chance to catch up with Chris Dugan, sports producer of the Needham Channel to get his thoughts on the Rockets as they head into Thanksgiving. Here’s what he had to say!
Q: Give us your impression of Needham this season? What have been their biggest strengths/weaknesses?
A: It was an interesting offseason for Needham. The Rockets were coming off a season in which they finished under .500 for the first time in 10 years. Heading into this year they were undergoing a change in identity from an offensive standpoint. In recent years the team has been known more of a ground and pound type, with the likes of Ian Riley, Mike Panepinto, and Jared Sklar. Meanwhile, this years team features a lot of athletes, especially at the WR position Odahri Hibberts, John Andre, Matt Smith which is a big reason the Rockets have transitioned to a spread offense. All of their WRs bring a different skillset to the table. Charlie Sumner was the go-to guy at QB last year, but for most of this year Needham went with the tandem of Sumner and junior Charlie Ogletree. Personally, I was a bit surprised by this because I think the typical belief is that the QB needs consistent reps to stay in rhythm. Quite frankly though, it worked excellently for the Rockets. Both QBs complemented each other really well, and Needham won four straight after dropping their opener to Natick. During that 4-game winning streak, the Rockets averaged 23 points per game. Unfortunately, Sumner suffered a broken collarbone early in Week 6 against Braintree which ended his season, but Ogletree has continued to do a great job taking over full-time. With that said, I think one of their biggest strengths is their versatility at the skill positions. Both Hibberts and Andre can line up outside, in the slot, or in the backfield. Smith and TE Jack Murmes give Ogletree some big targets. Plus, each member of that quartet has big play ability, as the Rockets have eight touchdowns this year of 40+ yards. Id say their weakness is containing inside runs. They have been burned a few times with read-option runs by QBs, who have just taken it straight through the middle. Occasionally, they have been exposed by good cutback runners.
Q: Who have been the key players for Needham this season?
A: Odahri Hibberts is without a doubt one of the key players for the Rockets. Last year he became the first freshman to start during Coach Dave Duffy’s 20 years at the helm. Instantly, you saw how much potential he had. He has been phenomenal for Needham this year, and I think he is just scratching the surface at what he can do for the remainder of his high school career. He’s dynamic in both the receiving and the running game. His burst and breakaway speed are terrific. He can turn it on in the blink of an eye. Matt Smith has also stepped up big and quickly became a favorite target of both Sumner & Ogletree. He’s got great height on the outside, good hands, and he has sneaky speed. Defensively, senior LB Mike DAlleva has been a rock all season. It seems like every play he’s in on it somehow. Hes quick, can rush from the edge, and defends the pass exceptionally well. DAlleva actually snagged an interception in the Thanksgiving game last year. Aaron Gordon is another guy to keep an eye on. The senior CB has helped steady the Needham secondary and he has a knack for making clutch plays, including the game-clinching INT in a playoff win over Brockton.
Q: Having now been Needham Channel sports producer for 3 years, what in your opinion makes this Wellesley Needham rivalry so special?
A: I hate to sound cliché, but I really think the main component that makes the rivalry so special is the tradition. There are so many generations of families that have been involved in the game. So many people either stay in town or return to Needham or Wellesley to start their family, which ends up building on the legacy. On top of that, it’s such as natural rivalry. Needham and Wellesley are two neighboring towns that are very similar. That creates a natural competition almost like between two siblings, which of course creates the feeling of having to one-up the other side every time they play. I always laugh when I’m broadcasting a game between the two towns, and one of the Needham announcers will say, “You know, before they were known as Wellesley they were actually West Needham.” It’s a battle for bragging rights that neither side wants to lose.
Q: What does Needham have to do in this game if they want to bounce back from last year’s loss and beat Wellesley on their home field?
A: First off, it’s the first Thanksgiving game in Wellesley in four years, since they played the 2015 game at Fenway park. I think that is going to create a little added motivation for the Raiders. Just from talking to the Needham players at the beginning of the year though, they didn’t shy away from acknowledging the fact that Wellesley handed it to them last year. They definitely want to flip the script this year. If the Rockets play loose, then they will put themselves in a good position to win the game. I mentioned that they have the ability to make big plays on offense. Those will come naturally. They have gotten in trouble before by trying to force the big play, which has gotten them out of sync. When Needham plays smart and plays loose, they can be explosive on offense.
As we start game week for the annual Wellesley-Needham show down coming up Thursday, both these teams come in once again with similar records, and statistics, despite the fact that Needham made the playoffs and Wellesley missed for the first time since 2014. Wellesley did bounce back in the consolation rounds and has won 2 of it’s last 3 while Needham has dropped 2 straight heading into the 130th showdown. Here’s an overview of the rivalry and how the teams fared this season heading into Thanksgiving.
Wellesley leads 61-59-9
Wellesley won last year 34-14
Wellesley 27 Concord Carlisle 0
Hingham 31 Wellesley 0
Wellesley 21 Durfee 7
Walpole 13 Wellesley 7
Milton 35 Wellesley 6
Wellesley 42 Norwood 0
Natick 13 Wellesley 6
Wellesley 22 Plymouth North 20
Newton North 28 Wellesley 22
Wellesley 21 Franklin 0
2 Seed D1 South
Natick 17 Needham 0
Needham 6 Walpole 0
Needham 28 Newton North 27
Needham 34 Weymouth 16
Needham 24 Framingham 8
Braintree 14 Needham 0
Needham 24 Brookline 6
Needham 23 Brockton 20 D1 South Quarterfinals
Xaverian 28 Needham 0 D1 South Semifinals
BC High 42 Needham 12
Tis the Monday before Thanksgiving everybody, and what a perfect time for a Thanksgiving themed installment of Monday Poll! Last week’s poll saw WEEI and the Sports Hub finish in a dead tie with 2 votes each. This week’s question is, which level of football do you most enjoy watching around the Thanksgiving holiday? NFL, College, or High School? Comment with your answers!