NEEDHAM, Mass. -– Prior to the start of the 2011 season, Needham had this particular contest circled on their calendar.
And, well, they certainly seemed prepared, as the unranked Rockets beat up on the No. 6 Weymouth Wildcats, 45-28.
The Rockets relied heavily upon their ground game, as senior tailbacks Ian Riley and Mike Vespa ate up the Wildcats front seven, combining for 279 yards and three rushing touchdowns.
“We [were] working on running the ball all week,” Needham head coach Dave Duffy said. “We got four good running backs and we try to give them the ball and Ian got tired their late in the game, we put Vespa in and he usually blocks, so it’s nice for him to carry the ball a lot and they both did a great job.”
Following a quick scoring strike from Weymouth’s senior quarterback Cam McLevedge to senior receiver Shawn Whouley in the first quarter, Needham’s offense took over and tallied 24 points. Needham senior quarterback Drew Burnett, who finished the game with three touchdowns, connected with both Nico Panepinto and Ian Riley to take a 24-7 halftime lead.
To start the third quarter, the Rockets took a page out of the New Orleans Saints' book, catching the Wildcats' special teams unit off-guard with an onside kick, which led to a touchdown pass from Burnett to Panepinto.
The Rockets' lead wasn’t totally safe, as McLevedge connected with senior receiver Khary Bailey-Smith for back-to-back scores before the Rockets defense collected three interceptions and forced junior running back Ozzy Colarusso to fumble the ball on Weymouth’s final drive.
“It’s a very disappointing game. We practiced [this past] week on what they were going to do, [and] we didn’t accomplish what we wanted to do,” McLevedge said. “I take a lot of blame for the game, made a lot of bad reads, [but] we just got to bounce back for next week and just see what we do in the rest of the season.”
Ian Riley’s dominance: The senior tailback tallied 186 yards on 22 carries for two touchdowns, as well as recorded two receptions for 29 yards and one touchdown. Weymouth’s offense struggled against Needham’s running attack, which ate up the front seven all game. Riley rushed for 142 yards on 13 carries in the second half, as well as recovered a loose ball during the first half.
Denying Mark Riley: While Needham’s pass happy offense struggled at times, Weymouth’s linebackers, cornerbacks and safeties shutdown Burnett’s safety blanket. Weymouth head coach Kevin Mackin described Riley has the best tight end in the state.
“He’s just clobbering everybody and we put a great athlete on him, our quarterback, which is double duty for him, so maybe that hurt a little offensively, who knows, but he covered him and we had Bailey-Smith over the top,” Mackin said. “We maybe over-committed a little bit, but clearly that kid is the best tight-end in the state when we [wanted] to make sure that we slowed him down [and] unfortunately they had way too many weapons to go to other than him.”
Wildcat Turnovers: Mackin expressed that the turnovers was the biggest issue for Weymouth, who recorded three interceptions and two fumbles.
“We’ve been pretty fortunate staying away from it obviously, [but] it caught up with us tonight and we got our share hopefully for the season,” Mackin said. “[There was] just way too many against a fantastic football team.”
NEEDHAM 45, WEYMOUTH 28
NHS (3-1) 14 10 7 14 --- 45
WHS (3-1) 7 7 14 0 --- 28
W – Shawn Whouley 6 pass from Cam McLevedge (Tyler Smith kick)
N - Ian Riley 3 run (Andrew Murochick kick)
N – Nico Panepinto 23 pass from Drew Burnett (Murochick kick)
N – Riley 29 pass from Burnett (Murochick kick)
W – Ozzy Colarusso 5 run (Smith kick)
N – Murochick 25 Field Goal
N – Panepinto 15 pass from Burnett (Murochick kick)
W – Khary Bailey-Smith 14 pass from McLevedge (Smith kick)
W - Bailey-Smith 19 pass from McLevedge (Smith kick)
N - Riley 32 run (Murochick kick)
N – Mike Vespa 6 run (Murochick kick)