(Video courtesy of The Needham Channel and James Walsh)
WEYMOUTH, Mass. -— Kevin Mackin is not one to say that a league title or that the season can be decided in the fourth week of the year.
But this late September win has to feel pretty good for his Weymouth football team.
David Harrison hit Tyler O’Brien in the end zone with 23 seconds left in regulation as the Wildcats pulled off a 32-27 home victory over Needham in an exciting, back-and-forth finish in a driving rainstorm.
The winner of this game usually ends up with the playoff spot and the league title on its resume by the end of the season, and right now Mackin’s group is potentially sitting in the driver's seat after falling short last year in the head-to-head matchup between the schools.
“(Our guys) knew what was on the line,” Mackin said. “Obviously the last four or five years we’ve been hammering it out, and certainly Framingham gets in the mix and it is very much in the mix this year...Anytime you can get a win against Needham you can feel real good about it. We’ve chased them down and grabbed a share of the league a couple of times, so we are certainly not going to nap on this. It’s week four for crying out loud and we’ve got seven big football games in front of us and we need to be ready for every one of them.”
The Finisher: It was a play that Mackin dipped into a couple times with great success last night against the Rockets defense, and it worked again to perfection with the game on the line.
O’Brien got single coverage on the right side of the field and he got the defender to bite on the underneath route and went right over the top for the score. Harrison and O’Brien hooked up on the same play earlier in the fourth quarter.
“I don’t really know,” said a stunned O’Brien, who caught five passes for 100 yards and three touchdowns. “I don’t have enough words to speak right now, but it was the same play. I saw the same gap, looked up for the ball and caught it. I was sitting on the defender and I got open, so (Harrison) threw it to me.”
“We got a matchup on a linebacker and he made a terrific catch, in addition to getting open, but he made a terrific catch,” added Mackin. “O’Brien is a terrific player and you can’t say enough about him right now. (He was) clutch.”
Harrison gets the call, and delivers: Not bad for a junior making his first start of the year in the biggest game potentially on the schedule. Mackin went to Harrison early in the week and told him he would be the starting quarterback, replacing the incumbent Jack Lehan.
Harrison had been spending most of his time as a wide receiver coming into the game, but his athleticism and ability to make positive yards when plays seemingly break down was why Mackin and the coaching staff went to him against a fast, ball-hawking Rockets defense.
The decision paid off, as Harrison went 15-for-25 for 259 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. He was perfect on his final four throws of the night on the go-ahead drive, ending in the score to O’Brien.
“They are so good on defense, so multiple and so fast, that we really felt that David gave us the best chance to run the football and take some time off the clock and move the chains a little bit better,” said Mackin.
“I was ready and I was shocked because (Jack Lehan) did a really good job at quarterback the past couple of games,” added Harrison. “The coach put a lot of faith in me and he knew that I could do the job he wanted me to do. I just tried to go out there and do it.”
Panepinto and Rockets need to recover: Mike Panepinto’s 224-yard and three-score effort went for not in a tight ball game, and the team needs to recover and recover quickly from a heart-breaking loss.
The Rockets made several key mistakes in big spots for the most of the night with personal fouls and some poor adjustments by the defense with the Wildcats marching down 1-point with 2:32 left in the game. Needham aided the final drive with a huge, and very close, pass interfernce penalty on third-and-10 to extend the drive after the ball fell incomplete. Mistakes like that came back to bite Needham, and Dave Duffy is hoping that the race to the league title is far from over.
“In a big game like this you want to play better, but that happens some times and you’ve got to move on,” said Rockets head coach Dave Duffy. “A lot of penalties on third down and some of them were sloppy. There were too many mistakes all around, and Weymouth played well. They deserved to win.”
WEYMOUTH 32, NEEDHAM 27
Needham (3-1) 7 – 7- 7 – 6 – 27
Weymouth (4-0) 7 – 13 – 0 – 12 – 32
N — Mike Panepinto 1 run (Brendan Brady kick)
W — Tyler O’Brien 54 pass from Dave Harrison (Ozzy Colarusso kick)
W — Colarusso 33 run (Colarusso kick)
N — Panepinto 26 run (Brady kick)
W — Colarusso 33 pass from Harrison (kick failed)
N — Panepinto 28 run (Brady kick)
W — O’Brien 25 pass from Harrison (pass failed)
N — Mike Elcock 51 pass from Ryan Charter (pass failed)
W — O’Brien 21 pass from Harrison (pass failed)