NEEDHAM, Mass. -- Quarterback Drew Burnett and his Needham Rockets offense came up 25-yards short of a game-tying touchdown with four seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, which allowed the No. 4 Mansfield to escape with an exciting 36-30 victory Friday night.
"[This was] two very good offensive football teams and both quarterbacks can throw," Mansfield head coach Mike Redding said. "This was a great non-league game for both teams. I think it'll help both of us in our league play, I hope they win the Bay State [Conference] and this was a great night of football."
"I thought we did great," said Needham head coach Dave Duffy. "We came out on the wrong end of the scoreboard, but I thought the way we played showed a lot about us against a very good team and they proved that at the end, but they played great and I couldn't be more proud of them."
Despite scoring the first touchdown of the contest, Mansfield (2-0) fell behind after Burnett hooked up with senior co-captain Mark Riley for two quick touchdown strikes before halftime. Riley led Needham's receivers with six catches for 102 yards, while the Hornets defense crushed the Rockets' running game, which tallied 60-yards on 20 carries.
Although, the biggest plays of the game came in the second half, as Mansfield rushed for three touchdowns, and held Needham's offense to just 10 points.
"They have so many good running backs, it's tough [saying, one's] better than the other and they kept running them out every three, four plays," said Duffy. "They have a bunch of good backs, so we were just trying to play our game and do the best we can. I thought we played well on defense, made a few mistakes, but we made a lot less mistakes than we did last week, so I think we're improving."
The Hornets' rushing attack was led by seniors Dylan Finerty, Greg Donahue and Blayne Taylor, who each registered one score in the final two quarters, as well as combined for 196 yards on the ground.
"I know [that my line] must have been dying, working every play," Mansfield senior quarterback George Busharis said. "They did a fantastic job, [and] gave Greg, Blayne, Dylan, [Mike] Farrell, [Kevin] Makie, Robbie [Rapoza] all big lanes to run in. We broke those two big ones and those small ones that counted in the last few minutes to run down the clock, so they were a huge factor."
All in all, it was a rather impressive win by Mansfield, but also, an extraordinary performance by Needham (1-1), which gained a great deal of confidence that they too can hang with the "big boys."
Some more thoughts:
-- Needham's offense relied heavily on Burnett in the first half, who completed 9-of-17 passes for three touchdowns and 153 yards. Their offensive line struggled to open gaps and holes for Needham's senior running backs Mike Vespa or Ian Riley. Burnett finished the game completing 16-of-32 passes for 326 yards and four touchdowns, but if the Rockets are going to be successful for the rest of the season, they're going to need to spread out their offense, as well as have their line create holes and gaps for their running backs and fullbacks. Duffy seemed rather pleased by the play of Burnett and his offensive unit, but again, they shouldn't put all the pressure on their quarterback's shoulders.
-- Give Mansfield's offensive line credit, as they opened a variety of running lanes and gaps for the Hornets' halfbacks, who tore apart the Rockets' defensive linemen and linebackers. Finerty commented about his line's production this evening by stating, "[Our] lineman held some good blocks and we just got some good yardage. The line did an incredibly job. [They were] lifting all summer. They were watching film every other day, they did a great job."
-- After watching just one Mansfield game, it's possible to state, they're a second-half team. Redding commented after the game that despite trailing Needham at halftime, he told his team that they needed to score on every possession in order to secure a victory. "We were down 12 [points] and we had to score every possession basically and the O-line picked up blitzes and is good as they are on offense, they were very good on defense too. " So far this season, Mansfield is 2-0 when trailing at halftime.
MANSFIELD 6 - 8 -7 - 15 -- 36
NEEDHAM - 7 - 13-7 - 3 - 30
M - Mike Farrell 39-yard run (Mike Hershman kick no good)
N - Mark Riley 42-yard reception (Andrew Murochick kick)
M- Christian Debeauport 28-yard reception (Blayne Tayor run)
N - Riley 7-yard reception (Murochick kick)
N- Dan Pierce 27-yard reception(Murochick kick)
N - Nico Panepinto 76-yard reception (Murochick kick)
M- Dylan Finerty 51-yard run (Hershman kick)
M- Taylor 4-yard run (Hershman kick)
N - Murochick 30-yard field goal
M - Greg Donahue 7-yard run (Taylor run)