Rumors had been swirling for several months that Needham and Wellesley could meet at Fenway, as the field is being prepared for the November 21 game between Boston College and Notre Dame. Also, current Boston Red Sox President Sam Kennedy is a Wellesley resident, so it seemed that there was a good chance that the game could be moved.
Last Thursday morning, it was officially announced what many had been speculating that Thanksgiving Day would be played not in the suburbs but in the city. Needham will face Wellesley at 9 a.m.
After the announcement, captains and coaches from the two teams, as well as those from St. John’s Prep, Xaverian, BC High, Catholic Memorial, Boston Latin, and Boston English, toured the stadium, walked the warning track, sat in the dugout, and went into the visitor’s locker room.
“For the kids, coaches, and school community and anyone else associated with the program, it is a tremendous opportunity,” said Director of Athletics Micah Hauben. “For the students it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Needham coach Dave Duffy echoed those exact words. He added, “It’s going to be a great experience. The field is going to be where fans will really be able to see it. We’re very excited.”
Wellesley coach Jesse Davis noted, “Everyone is grateful for the opportunity to play at Fenway. Going to the park with the captains has definitely added to the excitement of the event.”
The players had been aware of the possibility that the rivalry could end up at Fenway and Hauben called the week leading up to the announcement, a “whirlwind.”
“I don’t know if they’ll fully appreciate it until they get on the field and kick off,” he said.
The rivalry bounces back and forth between schools each season. While this game was supposed to be at Wellesley, so Needham will not lose a home game, Duffy insisted that an opportunity like this could not be passed up.
“Once you got there and saw what was all going to look like,” he explained, “you wouldn’t care if it was supposed to be a home game or not.”
Davis agreed, expressing zero concern over missing out on hosting the game at Hunnewell Field. “[There are] no concerns about home-field advantage, he said. “The crowd will be great from both towns.”
There is some concern that the teams could lose focus on the regular season with the Fenway experience looming at the end of the regular season. But Duffy is not worried about his team and knows that the Rockets will continue to focus on getting into the playoffs.
“Our motto is Fenway one week and Gillette the next,” said Duffy referencing the state title game that will be played at Gillette Stadium in the first week of December. He credited his captains and the senior class for keeping the players focused.
“I told them on Thursday that our focus is on Newton North and then on Weymouth next week,” he said. It worked, as the Rockets edged Newton North 13-10 to even their record at 2-2.
With Needham and Wellesley (4-0) currently in the running in Div. 2 South and both leading their respective divisions in the Bay State Conference, this could be a classic match-up regardless of the location.
Davis remarked, “The rivalry goes back to generations of players who were fortunate enough to represent their schools and town in the game. The fact that we get to share the game with our alumni at Fenway Park this year makes it very special.”
Tickets for the game went on sale online on Thursday at http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/bos/ticketing/hs_football.jsp.