Boston High School: Mike Vespa

D1 boys' lax: Needham 12, BC High 7

June, 10, 2012
NEEDHAM, Mass. -- Needham is heading to Harvard.

The No. 6 seed Needham Rockets took down No. 10 B.C. High on Saturday, 12-7, in the East Division 1 Semifinal, to move ahead to the Final at Harvard Stadium on Wednesday.

“Playing at Harvard has been a goal that these guys have set since I would say even years back,” Needham head coach Dave Wainwright said. “For us, last year we missed it by a goal against Saint John’s Prep to get there. We feel like that final piece of the journey is now – it’s now there for us. So we’re excited to say the least.”

The Rockets (16-5) lit up in the fourth quarter netting six goals –- a total they combined in the first three -- but the final frame was cat-and-mouse action with a 2-1-2 pattern in their favor.

Up 6-4, Needham’s Mark Riley (3 G) tallied his second straight shot -- the team’s first of the fourth quarter -- at 10:15, running up the middle against BC High’s Jonathan Barton in net. Timmy Parlato followed with a similar shot just eight seconds later for the double lead over the Eagles (13-9).

“Big sigh out of me,” Wainwright said. “When Timmy does big moments like that and becomes that big playmaker that he has been all season for us, we know things are going in the right direction.”

BC High’s Corey Davidson (2 G), who had a big game in the Eagles’ last match, answered with his second of the game at 8:47 on a bouncing shot on Needham’s Lucas Davis.

The Rockets fired back with two straight goals. At 6:48, Nico Panepinto (3 G) twisted his body in the circle to lay the ball in and, at 5:37, Mike Vespa scored from the left wing with James Caruso (2 G, 1 A) assisting.

Alex O’Brien netted B.C. High’s sixth goal at 4:35, but really Needham was taking charge. Nico Panepinto tallied again at 4:22 in front of the goal and Caruso scored the 12th at 3:22 on an open net.

BC High’s Brendan Hogan put the final ball in with 2:20 remaining.

Needham held a 3-0 lead after goals by Mikey Panepinto, Riley and Jamie McGill. BC High came within one for a 3-2 score after goals at 4:27 and 3:01, but again Needham put two past Barton in quick succession at 2:11 and 2:05. B.C. pulled within two to end the first half.

Davis made 18 saves in between the pipes and drew the praises of his coach.

“I don’t really get tired of answering questions about a kid that has been playing for me since eighth grade,” Wainwright said. “He’s an absolute joy to have, an absolute pleasure for our defense to play for. My guys, like I’ve said before and I”ll say it again, they rally to play for him and [Davis] feeds off that confidence and that’s why he’s able to do the things he does.

“[He] kind of came out and he felt a little uneasy because, like everyone, they’re high school kids and they felt some nerves, and his veteran leadership and his ability to take from his experience in the past two years, he was able to really put it on the field today.”

Needham will face No. 1 Duxbury in the final at 7:45 p.m. on Wednesday. Duxbury more than doubled up No. 4 Lincoln-Sudbury, 18-6, on Saturday.

“We’re looking forward to it because we’ve seen them before and, when you’ve seen something, the mystery is now gone,” Wainwright said. “It’ll be gone for both teams and I realize that. But I feel like we’re going to give it our best shot, and you know what, no one is really going to pick us, but we’re going to be the ones to hopefully be that spoiler.”
NEEDHAM, Mass. – From the way it started, its outcome would seem dubious.

No. 19 Norwood came charging out of the gate, scoring the game’s first goal against Bay State rival No. 6 Needham on Wednesday. The Mustangs also held a 2-1 lead midway through the first quarter.

Things simply unraveled from there as the Rockets coasted to a 13-2 victory.

“That third quarter was probably the best offense we’ve played all season, spinning the ball and keeping it hot,” Needham attack Nico Panepinto said of the Rockets’ six-goal third.

Panepinto and Jamie McGill paced the Rockets’ high-fueled attack with four goals each. Robbie Pisano chipped in two goals of his own, while James Caruso, Alex Mirages and Mike Riley also found the back of the net.

But the Needham (12-4) attack started at midfield with the expert face-off work of Caruso, who won over 80 percent of his draws. It was a complete effort for the midfielder, who also won a team-high five ground balls.

“It makes all the difference when you’re able to win the ball and get it to the offense,” Panepinto said of Needham’s faceoff dominance. “That means everything.”

While the Mustangs (11-4) were off to hot start, Needham’s defense quickly regrouped and held Norwood to just three shots at the cage for the remainder of the first half.

Rockets head coach Dave Wainwright said it was a credit to the team’s pillars.

“[Mike] Vespa, [Dan] Kavanaugh, those guys have done a fantastic job of kind of jelling together, and with Lucas [Davis] inside the cage, it’s been a nice little group and a foundation for everyone to build confidence on.”

Recap: BC High 21, Needham 7

December, 3, 2011

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -– Boston College High School’s senior running back Deonate Ramey-Doe recorded three rushing touchdowns against Needham, as the Eagles defeated the Rockets in the Division I Eastern Massachusetts Super Bowl, 21-7.

“He’s earned himself as a top, great running back [over] the last six games,” said Boston College High School head coach Jon Bartlett. “It was his time to shine [on Saturday], he did a great job.”

Needham’s special teams set the tone early, as the Rockets recovered an onside kick on the initial kick-off, and then registered their only touchdown of the game five plays later when sophomore quarterback Ryan Charter (139 yards, 1 TD, 4 INT) connected with senior running back Mike Vespa for a five-yard score.

“We were trying to get things going [early on in the first quarter],” said Needham head coach Dave Duffy, when asked about his team’s decision to attempt an onside kick.

The Eagles responded on the ensuing possession, as Ramey-Doe, (24 carries, 200 yards, 3 TDs) scored his first of three touchdowns on a five-yard run before ripping off a 91-yard score mid-way through the second quarter.

“They weren’t ready for that formation,” said Ramey-Doe, when asked to describe his 91-yard run. “So, once we ran it, it was wide-open.”

In the second half, the Eagles offense controlled the clock, and once again, handed the ball to Ramey-Doe, who capped off a 13-play, 75-yard drive with a one-yard run in the third quarter.

Needham’s offense then attempted to rally, despite trailing by two scores, but couldn’t muster a single touchdown, as the Eagles defense intercepted Charter three times to preserve the win, and their second championship in three seasons.

“They’re a great football team, [and] they deserve to be Division I Super Bowl champs, but as tough and as hard as we played, I thought we could have played a little bit better,” said Duffy.

Defending Ramey-Doe: Entering Saturday’s affair against the Eagles, Duffy and his defense knew that in order to be successful, they’d have to stop Ramey-Doe. However, the Rockets struggled through four quarter, and couldn’t slow down the senior running back that finished the game with 200 yards on 24 carries.

“We gave up a lot of yards on the base running game because we’re a little outsized-wise. Their fullback had a good game running too,” said Duffy. “They’re a little bigger, tougher than we were -– bigger or stronger than we were, [but] we hung tough with them.”

Ramey-Doe expressed after the game concluded that a major reason he experienced a great deal of success on the ground was because of his offensive line.

“[They were] huge,” said Ramey-Doe. “I just got to trust my lineman, run has hard as I can, and it’ll be that.”

“[During] halftime, we challenged our guys and said, we’re going to pound it [during our] opening drive, and we challenged the guys and they rose to the occasion, and we marched down the field, so [our] offensive played well tonight,” said Bartlett.

Eagles D solid: It could have been the bright lights or the fact Needham had finally made it to Gillette Stadium, but against the Eagles on Saturday, Charter struggled against an Eagles front seven that constantly pressured him all game.

“A couple of them I thought could have been caught by the Needham kids, but that’s the way it goes,” said Duffy. “BC High’s defense is one of the best team’s in the state, so other teams look bad against them too.”

“Our defense played great tonight,” said Bartlett. “That opening drive they had, they scored, and we shut [them] down after that, so [our] defense played outstanding.”

Bartlett then continued by saying, “[Charter] is outstanding. He’s going to be a good one. I think he has a bright future.”

Besides the passing game, the Rockets running game seemed to falter, especially since the offensive line struggled to open the proper running lanes for their backs. Vespa led the Rockets with 60 yards on 16 carries, while senior Danny Pierce and Nico Panepinto combined for two carries for 15 yards.

“Our line was working hard, [but] they’re big, strong kids, and our line was pushing them around. We were undersized against them, but credit’s got to go to the line, they were doing their job for most of the game, so we just stuck together,” said Vespa.

Overall, the Eagles defense yielded 204 yards (139 passing, 65 rushing).

BC (10-3) – 7-7-7-0—21
NE (9-4) – 7-0-0-0—7

First Quarter
N- Mike Vespa 5 pass from Ryan Charter (Andrew Murowchick kick)
BC- Deontae Ramey-Doe 5 run (Jackson Bockhurst kick)

Second Quarter
BC – Ramey-Doe 91 run (Bockhurst kick)

Third Quarter
BC – Ramey-Doe 1 run (Bockhurst kick)

The View from Needham

December, 1, 2011
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- In advance of Saturday's MIAA Super Bowls, the teams playing at Gillette Stadium toured the facility and took part in media day festivities on the field.

Our Scott Barboza caught up with the members of the Needham Rockets who will tussle with Catholic Conference champion BC High in the Division 1 EMass Super Bowl.

Here's the view from Needham with captains Drew Burnett, Peter Madsen, Mark Riley and Mike Vespa:

Recap: Needham 42, New Bedford 14

November, 30, 2011

WEYMOUTH, Mass. -– For the first time in school history, the Needham Rockets are headed to the Division I Super Bowl, as they defeated the New Bedford Whalers in the semi-finals on Tuesday evening at Weymouth High School, 42-14.

“It feels great, it feels great,” exclaimed Needham head coach Dave Duffy. “We’ve never won a playoff game, [and] it’s always hung over our heads a little bit.”

“They’re a good football team for sure, there’s no question about it, and we certainly respect them,” said New Bedford head coach Dennis Golden.

Needham sophomore quarterback Ryan Charter (183 passing yards, 3 total TD) led the way, while senior running back Mike Vespa (12 carries, 34 yards) and sophomores Mike Panepinto and Rashawn Wise each provided the Rockets with a score each.

The Rockets defense complimented their offensive unit by holding the Whalers' offense to just one touchdown in the fourth quarter, and by also recording seven sacks against junior quarterback Mike Rapoza.

“Nothing was going right [for us],” said Rapoza. “I didn’t have any time to read my reads, and it was just tough, really tough.”

Said Needham senior defensive lineman Jamie Arnao, “[The] D-line and linebackers played unbelievable. They were getting penetration all game long, even the second d-line when they came in there and they were dominating, so all around, defense played fantastic, d-backs got a couple coverage sacks, so it was a [good all around effort]."

Overall, Tuesday’s game was by far the best that all three Needham units played this season, and certainly that made Duffy quite pleased.

“Everybody played well,” said Duffy. “Everything went well there right up to the end, and I’m so proud of the kids.”

Charter carries the day: Needham had never won a playoff game until Tuesday against New Bedford, so while many doubted Charter and his chances to lead the Rockets to their first victory in school history, the young quarterback appeared completely unfazed for the entire 40 minutes, and played his best game of the season.

“He was near perfect,” said Burnett, when asked to describe his teammate’s performance. “He played a heck of a game, but he’s been unbelievable, making all the passes, making the right reads, and doing everything that a quarterback should do.”

“He was poised all game long, he didn’t get nervous,” said Arnao. “Having a kid like that in the huddle is awesome and now we know he’s going to make the play. We’ve got the confidence with him, [and] hopefully we can carry it into [Saturday].”

Charter completed 10 of 12 passes, and registered two scores with his legs. He appeared incredibly comfortable on the run, and even when his pocket collapsed too.

“It’s been our goal [to make it to Gillette Stadium, and Ryan] made it happen,” said Burnett.

Controlling the clock: The Rockets offense controlled the clock for a majority of the game and kept the Whalers offense sidelined for literally the entire second half. However, one of the biggest time constraining drives for the Rockets occurred during the third quarter, as Needham ate up roughly nine minutes, and tallied one score on 16 plays.

“We needed to get the ball back right away, [and] we didn’t do it,” said Golden. “They were a better team, [so] good job to them, great job to them.”

Golden also explained that the Rockets defense helped their offense keep the ball in their hands by forcing numerous three-and-outs.

“We had to establish a line of scrimmage, [but] they did it, we didn’t,” said Golden. “It’s frustrating, but they earned it, so hopefully we can earn it in the future.”

Needham’s Super Bowl Goal: Prior to the start of the season, numerous Needham seniors expressed their number one goal for the year was making it to Gillette Stadium. The Rockets clinched a spot in Saturday’s MIAA Division I Super Bowl against heavy favorite BC High, but Arnao he believes his team is mentally prepared for their final opponent of the season.

“We’ve got to play our game,” said Arano. “We’ve got a tough opponent against BC High, they’re going to be good, [and] we know that, so we just got to come out, and all the seniors have got to step up, all the under classman have to step up, and we just got to play our game, so hopefully we can get it done.”

NE (9-3) – 14 -14 - 7 - 7 --- 42
NB (5-6) – 0 - 0 - 6 - 8 --- 14

First Quarter
NE – Mike Vespa 33 run (Andrew Murowchick kick)
NE – Rashawn Wise 18 run (Murowchick kick)

Second Quarter
NE – Mark Riley 13 pass from Ryan Charter (Murowchick kick)
NE – Charter 1 run (Murowchick kick)

Third Quarter
NE – Charter 1 run (Murowchick kick)
NB – Mike Rapoza 65 kickoff return (rush failed)

Fourth Quarter
NE – Mike Panepinto 17 run (Murowchick kick)
NB – Rapoza 15 run (Kevin Nunes run)

Recap: Needham 42, Wellesley 18

November, 24, 2011

WELLESLEY, Mass. -- The Needham Rockets clinched the Bay State Conference Carey Division title, and earned their second playoff berth in three seasons, after defeating their archrival Wellesley Raiders, 42-18, on Thanksgiving morning.

"It’s nice to win on Thanksgiving, especially for the senior class," said Needham head coach Dave Duffy. “I’m glad that they came out of here with a win, and I’m glad they’re going to the playoff’s.”

The Rockets were lead on offense by Nico Panepinto, who totaled three touchdowns. Defensively, Ronnie Rosser led the way with three interceptions.

But it was Wellesley (2-9) who scored the games first points with 3:54 remaining in the first quarter, on a 65-yard screen pass from Matt Pini to Dan Elfman.

Needham (8-3) scored twice before the end of the quarter, Panepinto scoring the Rockets first TD on a busted reverse. The Wellelsey defense read the play well, but Panepinto used some skill to avoid a tackle, and broke the play back across the field for a 16-yard touchdown run.

“I got the ball and immediately there was a guy right in my face,” said Panepinto. “I cut back and it completely opened up, it was a little bit of luck and a little bit of cutback.”

After the Rockets' defense forced a three-and-out from Wellesley, Needham went to their playmaking tight end Mark Riley for a 61-yard touchdown pass from sophomore Ryan Charter to give Needham a 14-6 lead after one.

On the first play of the second quarter Dan Pierce caught a 32 yard touchdown pass from Charter to give the Rockets a 21-6 lead.

It looked like Needham was pulling away from Wellesley for good, until Pini hit Matt Dziama over the middle half way through the second quarter and Dizama took it 71 yards to the house.

Panepinto scored his second touchdown of the day with 4:14 left in the first half with a leaping catch on the goal like to catch a 20 yard pass for the score giving Needham a 28-12 halftime lead.

Wellesley scored early in the second half when senior running back Alex Pernokas went 25 yards untouched up the middle for a touchdown cutting Needham’s lead to 10.

Panepinto scored his third touchdown of the game in midway through the fourth quarter, catching the ball on the one yard line and diving for the pylon with a defender on his back for a 30 yard score.

Rosser had the last score of the game when he returned his third interception of the game for a 55 yard touchdown and a 42-18 final.

“I just wanted to score,” Rosser said of his first varsity touchdown. “It feels good, coming into this game I didn’t think I’d grab three picks.”

The Rockets will face New Bedford on Tuesday evening in the Division 1 Playoff’s.

As a Team: After suffering season ending injuries to their starting quarter, Drew Burnett and playmaking running back, Ian Riley, the Rockets have continued to play strong and will be playing post-season football for the second time in three seasons. Coach Dave Duffy credits that to his senior class.

“There is only one other class that I can think of that was part of two Bay State winning teams and went to the playoff’s,” said Duffy. “I’m excited for the seniors and I wish Drew and Ian were with us, but they’re still helping us.”

“We always want to do it for Drew and Ian,” said Rockets senior captain Mike Vespa. “Were a big family, we’ve been playing together for years and we want to do it for each other.”

Recap: Natick 49, No. 16 Needham 24

October, 29, 2011

NEEDHAM, Mass. -– Just one week after the No. 16 Needham Rockets scored one of their gutsiest wins of this season, they came back to Earth thanks to an electric Natick offensive display, the Red and Blue winning 49-24 to hand the Rockets their first loss of 2011.

“This is huge. That’s a great team,” said Natick head coach Mark Mortarelli. “Unfortunately, they’re under-manned, a couple of guys got hurt during this game, [and] of course the quarterback’s out, but anytime you beat Needham, they’re very well-coached and they’re very balanced. It’s just huge for us.”

Natick sophomore quarterback Troy Flutie, (11 of 14, 181 yards, 2 TD), set the tone early, as he connected with sophomore wide receiver Alex Hilger for the game's initial score, before Needham responded with a field goal by senior place kicker Andrew Murowchick.

The Rockets then surprised the Red and Blue on the ensuing kick-off with an onside kick, which set up sophomore quarterback Ryan Charter's nine-yard scoring strike to senior tailback Mike Vespa. Flutie and freshman Brian Dunlap, (12 carries, 69 yards 3 TD), responded with a score each, which gave Natick a 21-17 lead at the break.

In the second half, Vespa (11 carries, 78 yards) capped off a seven play series with a five-yard plunge. But it was all Natick the rest of the way, scoring 27 unanswered points. Flutie threw and ran for a score, while Dunlap and junior Nick Lee each sprinted by Needham’s defense for points.

“[This win] is great," Flutie said. "It gives us so much confidence heading into Wellesley, Walpole and Framingham. I feel great about those games, [and] I really feel like we can win those and go farther."

Line Opened the Run: After the Red and Blue celebrated their seventh win of the season, Flutie and Dunlap thanked their offensive line after the game, who provided the necessary holes to help the team combine for 255 yards on the ground.

“The running game was awesome," Flutie said. "Our o-line blocked awesome, our coaching as awesome. Coach [Brian] Maloney, Coach [Matt] Brenneman, all our o-line men did their jobs, and we had holes, it was great.”

Said Dunlap, “I know the offensive line was awesome. I’m so happy for those guys, they worked their butts off, and they practiced hard all week, and it’s tough being an o-line men, but they’re proud of what they do. I couldn’t do it without them.”

Even Mortarelli was quite pleased, saying, “They were just clicking. That was the best I’ve seen them play, and I was really proud of our offensive coaches.”

Needham’s Injuries: The Rockets offense, defense and special teams was nipped by the injury bug all evening, as senior running backs Ian Riley and Mike Vespa both left the game and did not return.

Riley, (three carries, 28 yards), who exited after the first quarter returned to the sidelines for the remainder of the contest with no pads or helmet, but instead, crutches. After the game concluded, he quickly muttered that he sprained his MCL and could most likely miss the rest of the season.

As for Vespa, he may have sustained a concussion on the team’s only touchdown of the second half, according to head coach Dave Duffy.

“We think he could be back in a couple of weeks, so we don’t know," Duffy said. "Riley hopefully [will] be back in a couple weeks too.”

Burnett returned to the gridiron: Two weeks after his quarterbacking career at Needham ended with a broken ankle against Milton, senior co-captain Drew Burnett returned to Memorial Field on Friday evening, and met Natick’s captains at midfield for the opening coin toss. Afterward, Burnett was forced to watch his team struggled against a Red and Blue offense that refused to be stopped.

“It’s tough to watch, especially with a game like this [one],” said Burnett after his team’s second loss of the season.

NAT (7-1) 7 14 7 22 --- 49
NEE (7-1) 10 7 7 0 --- 24

First Quarter
Nat – Alex Hilger 32 pass from Troy Flutie (Sam Lenson kick)
Need – Andrew Murowchick, 35 field goal
Need – Mike Vespa 9 pass from Ryan Charter (Murowchick kick)

Second Quarter
Nat – Brian Dunlap 20 run (Lenson kick)
Need – Nico Panepinto 27 pass from Charter (Murowchick kick)
Nat – Flutie 14 run (Lenson kick)

Third Quarter
Need – Vespa 5 run (Murowhick kick)
Nat – Nick Lee 2 run (Lenson kick)

Fourth Quarter
Nat – Flutie 6 run (Dunlap run)
Nat – Dunlap 36 run (Lenson kick)
Nat – Dunlap 7 run (kick blocked)

The View from No. 16 Needham

October, 27, 2011
NEEDHAM, Mass. -- The No. 16 Needham Rockets burst onto the scene in the first month of the season after taking then-No. 4 Mansfield to the ropes and throwing a series of haymakers in an upset of then-No. 6 Weymouth, and continue to embrace challenges with a grin.

Two weeks ago, senior quarterback and Division 1 prospect Drew Burnett went down for the season with a broken ankle, leaving many wondering what would be head coach David Duffy's next move. Duffy announced before last Friday's showdown with Walpole that a three-player rotation would take the reigns under center, and sophomore Ryan Charter promptly won the job by throwing for 222 yards on just five completions in a 31-22 win over previously-unbeaten Walpole.

This week, the challenges continue. Natick (6-1) rolls into Memorial Park as another one of the year's surprises, with a youth movement leading the way in a pass-happy attack led by sophomore quarterback Troy Flutie (yes, Darren's kid) and freshman wideout Brian Dunlap, who is currently tied with Pope John XXIII's Malcolm Brown for most touchdown receptions in the state (11).

We checked in with Needham stars Ian Riley, Mark Riley and Mike Vespa before practice Thursday, to see how they're preparing:

Recap: No. 16 Needham 31, No. 17 Walpole 22

October, 21, 2011

NEEDHAM, Mass. -- The Needham football team proved Friday night that the loss of one player is not going to derail its chances at a Bay State Conference Carey Division title and more.

With starting quarterback Drew Burnett out for the rest of the season with an ankle injury, sophomore Ryan Charter found himself at the helm against Walpole and proceeded to burn the visiting Rebels with one big play after another in a 31-22 Rockets' win.

“Honestly, I found out (that I would start about) 20 minutes before the game,” said Charter, who completed 5-of-10 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns. “A couple kids were telling me, ‘You’re going to get in the game.’ I was, like, ‘Alright, that’s all I need.’ But I didn’t know until today.”

The heavy-hearted coach of the No. 16 Rockets, David Duffy, had to compose himself when he remarked how his players “wanted to do it for Drew.”

They did it alright, as they took down Walpole for the first time since 2006 and looked good doing so. Despite Walpole having what Rebels coach Barry Greener said was his team’s best offensive game of the season, Needham (6-1, 6-0 in the BSC) never wavered, landing haymaker after haymaker.

Ian Riley (115 yards rushing) set up Needham’s first touchdown with a 64-yard run that was soon followed by a jet sweep to senior Dan Pierce, who pulled up and hit Nico Panepinto for a 31-yard touchdown.

Walpole (6-1 overall and in BSC) answered with a Steve Thulin 4-yard score but the PAT was wide right to keep it at 7-6. One play later, Charter hit Mark Riley for a 67-yard touchdown pass as the Rockets took a 14-6 lead into halftime.

They built on it on the first series of the third quarter when Charter found Mark Riley again, this time for a 74-yard score that pushed the advantage to 21-6. Walpole immediately answered on a Shane Blass (152 yards rushing) 66-yard scoring run that helped make it 21-14 after a P.J. Hayes two-point rush.

Needham again had a response, though, as Charter hit Mike Vespa on a 49-yard screen that led to a 19-yard Andrew Murowchick field goal.

The Rockets defense then held for a turnover on downs and the offense chewed up 6:48 in a drive that culminated in a 6-yard Ian Riley run to make it 31-14 midway through the fourth.

Walpole added the final points when Hayes scored from six yards out and Blass added the two points out of the Wildcat, but Needham ran out the clock effectively on the final drive to secure the victory.

Walpole coach Barry Greener praised Needham after the game for always having great balance on offense, and his team paid dearly for it on Friday night. The Rockets can hurt defenses in a variety of ways, and the Rebels simply had a hard time getting Needham’s offense off the field. Charter was efficient on his throws, did not turn the ball over and made the Rebels pay for cheating up on play-action. The running back duo of Ian Riley at tailback and Vespa at fullback provided the sleeper hold on Walpole’s defense when it needed to kill the clock in the final quarter. Mark Riley again proved to be a speedy option in the passing game, and Pierce also made two big receptions in the fourth to help the Rockets extend their final touchdown drive, including a 24-yarder on third-and-13 from the Needham 18. The Rockets simply put on a clinic against one of the better defenses in the area.

There was a lot of speed on the field, but Hayes, a junior cornerback and wide receiver, may have been the fastest player out there. Although he bit on the trick play that resulted in Needham’s first score, he prevented one earlier in the drive when he chased down Ian Riley from a bad angle on the 64-yard run. Hayes also broke up several passes with good technique on some long throws to his side. And if Hayes wasn’t the fastest player on the Rebel sideline, it was Blass, who can really scoot once he gets in the open field. The Rebels have struggled at times on offense this year, but those two only need a little space to change those fortunes on any given play.

Walpole (6-1, 6-1 BSC) 0 6 8 8 - 22
Needham (6-1, 6-0 BSC) 7 7 10 7 - 31

1st quarter
N - Nico Panepinto 31 pass from Dan Pierce (Andrew Murowchick kick)

2nd quarter
W - Steve Thulin 4 run (kick failed)
N - Mark Riley 67 pass from Ryan Charter (Murowchick kick)

3rd quarter
N - M. Riley 74 pass from Charter (Murowchick kick)
W - Shane Blass 66 run (P.J. Hayes rush)
N - Murowchick 19 FG

4th quarter
N - Ian Riley 6 run (Murowchick kick)
W - Hayes 6 run (Blass rush)

Recap: Needham 45, No. 6 Weymouth 28

October, 1, 2011
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.”


NHS (3-1) 14 10 7 14 --- 45
WHS (3-1) 7 7 14 0 --- 28

1st Quarter
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)

2nd Quarter
N – Riley 29 pass from Burnett (Murochick kick)
W – Ozzy Colarusso 5 run (Smith kick)
N – Murochick 25 Field Goal

3rd Quarter
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)

4th Quarter
N - Riley 32 run (Murochick kick)
N – Mike Vespa 6 run (Murochick kick)

The View from Needham

September, 29, 2011
NEEDHAM, Mass. -- Are the Needham High Rockets one of the area's most underrated squads? We'll have a much clearer answer this Saturday after the Rockets play host to No. 6 Weymouth, in what is looking like the game of the year in the Bay State's Carey Division.

We caught up with head coach David Duffy and his senior captains this afternoon, following a walkthrough practice at Memorial Park (Needham High had the day off today in observance of Rosh Hashanah).

Head coach David Duffy:

Quarterback Drew Burnett:

Tight end Mark Riley:

Fullback Mike Vespa:

Guard Peter Madson:

Recap: No. 4 Mansfield 36, Needham 30

September, 17, 2011

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

1st Quarter

M - Mike Farrell 39-yard run (Mike Hershman kick no good)
N - Mark Riley 42-yard reception (Andrew Murochick kick)

2nd Quarter
M- Christian Debeauport 28-yard reception (Blayne Tayor run)
N - Riley 7-yard reception (Murochick kick)
N- Dan Pierce 27-yard reception(Murochick kick)

3rd Quarter
N - Nico Panepinto 76-yard reception (Murochick kick)
M- Dylan Finerty 51-yard run (Hershman kick)

4th Quarter
M- Taylor 4-yard run (Hershman kick)
N - Murochick 30-yard field goal
M - Greg Donahue 7-yard run (Taylor run)

BSC announces boys' lax all-stars

May, 26, 2011
The Bay State Conference announced its boys' lacrosse all-stars today, in addition to naming Wellesley goaltender and Penn State commit Conor Darcey as the league's MVP.

Here's the complete list:

First team:
Goaltender - Conor Darcey, Wellesley*
LSM Specialist - Ryan Cassidy, Wellesley*
LSM - Justin Lanzafane, Framingham
Defense - Nate Menninger, Newton North*
Defense - Jake Shearman, Newton North
Defense - Joe Manganaro, Natick
Defense - Jimmy Hughto, Wellesley*
Defense -Matt Ndden, Walpole*
Mid - Mike Stearns, Framingham*
Mid - Cam Brown, Natick*
Mid - Sam Lawrence, Wellesley*
Mid - Charlie Jennings, Wellesley*
Mid - Oliver Saffery, Wellesley
Mid - Mark Riley, Needham*
Mid - Davis Cutter, Needham
Mid - Eli Yannekis, Brookline*
Attack - Peter Crane, Wellesley
Attack - Kyle Guilbert, Walpole*
Attack - Brian Rossman, Norwood
Attack - Matt Hillman, Brookline*
Attack - Will Stenberg, Needham*
Attack - Nico Panepinto, Needham
*Denotes Eastern Mass All-Star

Second team:
Attack - Brendan Kelley, Milton
Attack - Conor Nugent, Framingham
Attack - Nick Foley, Walpole
Attack - Jason Lee, Brookline
Mid - Zack LaFavre, Weymouth
Mid - Ryan Quinn, Newton North
Defense - Matt Kustra, Natick
Defense - Kyle Skinner, Norwood
Defense - Mike Vespa, Needham
Defense - Josh Miller, Braintree
D Mid - Adam Horelick, Wellesley

Versatility keys Needham over Framingham

October, 30, 2010
NEEDHAM, Mass. -- Week in and week out, doesn't seem to matter who's under center or who's catching those darting throws over the middle. Needham High continues to find ways to get it done.

As the Rockets shuffled Kevin Brennan and Drew Burnett at quarterback, just as they have done all year, so too did skill players like juniors Mike Vespa and Ian Riley contribute to tonight's 27-14 win over Framingham in a variety of ways.

Both Vespa (79 yards rushing, 35 receiving) and Riley (40, 58) posed threats to the Flyers' defense through the ground and air, and were especially helpful against the Flyers' bend-but-don't-break defense. With Sean O'Connell and John Downey clogging the middle and linebacker Javier Santiago bringing all sorts of pressure with blitzes off the edge and through the A-gaps, Needham head coach David Duffy called the numbers of Vespa and Riley to stretch the field to the sidelines. He even incorporated Brennan into the run game at times, motioning him from the slot to take jet sweeps around the end.

"It's really good," Duffy said of the versatility under center. "When Kevin came back from injury (he's been battling back and shoulder problems at times throughout the season), we started getting him in there. Every week, we've gotten more comfortable putting him in that packet (in the run game), our offensive coordinator Chuck Thornton does a great job, and we'll continue to add to it as we go on. It's definitely a change from what we normally run."

The Rockets (6-2) opened up the scoring midway through the second quarter with a 15-yard strike from Burnett to Mark Riley, who came across the shallow middle end zone on a delayed slant route. But it was their second strike, just three minutes later, where the ability to adapt shone through. On fourth and 15 from the Flyers' 20 yard line, Brennan initially looked to his right for a screen pass to Vespa; but the convoy was covered up, and so Brennan reversed direction and rolled to his left, eluding the rush and finding Ian Riley wide open at the near left pylon on a wheel route for the touchdown.

"We didn't coach that," Duffy said. "We tell them what to do, but you can't coach stuff like that. I mean, that's just two kids playing football in the backyard doing a great job."

Ian Riley then flexed his coverage ability to kick-start the Rockets in the earlygoings of the second half. Greg Finley (139 yards passing, two touchdowns) and Travis Hayes (seven catches, 37 yards) drove Framingham all the way to the Needham 19 on its opening drive of the third quarter, only to toss a potential touchdown strike to the near left pylon and watch as Riley leaped up, kicked out his front leg and came down with the pick. After the ensuing three-and-out by Needham, the Flyers took the ball again at the 40, only to watch Riley come up with the pick again just two plays into the drive.

In recent years under Gary Doherty, the Flyers have operated smoothly under a fast-paced no-huddle offense. That seemed to have little effect on the Rockets, despite playing many guys two ways, and for the most part the Flyers had to settle for short strikes over the middle and in the flats. Finley completed just three passes that went over 15 yards.

"We had a tough week," Riley said. "We were practicing staying outside on them. I thought we did a good job on their no-huddle offense."

On the first play of Needham's first drive, to start the fourth quarter, the ball was fumbled away and fallen on by Framingham's Christian Wilkins. But just a play later, Needham middle linebacker Will Steinberg caught and easy Finley strike over the middle, broke for the left pylon and took it all the way to the house, for a 21-0 lead and all the cushion the Rockets would need in this one.

Doherty fanned the blame unto himself for his team's first-half performance.

"I'll take responsibility for the first half," Doherty said. "We were off rhythm the whole first half. We didn't establish anything. You want to establish something offensively, run or pass, we didn't establish anything and I own that."


FRA (5-3) 0 0 0 14 --- 14
NED (6-2) 0 14 0 13 --- 27

Second Quarter
N - Mark Riley 15 pass from Drew Burnett (Nick Wong kick) 7:06
N - Ian Riley 19 pass from Kevin Brennan (Wong kick) 4:01

Fourth Quarter
N - Will Steinberg 40 interception return (Brian Tedoldi kick) 11:42
F - Joseph Igoe 11 pass from Greg Finley (Gregory Hemmer kick) 7:51
N - Phil Comma 8 run (kick blocked) 1:48
F - David Odhiambo 15 pass from Finley (Hemmer kick) 0:53.6