Needham gang tackles the Braintree runner in a dominant defensive performance.
By James Kinneen
Hometown Weekly Reporter
On Friday night, the winless Needham Rockets football team travelled to Braintree, scored fourteen points in the first quarter and shut down the Wamps’ offense to hold on for a 14-6 win. The victory was the first for the Rockets and moved them to 1-4 on the year.
On a viciously cold and windy night, Needham took control early with two passing touchdowns, including one that saw Thomas Fullbrook take a short pass a long way down the right sideline. Braintree would answer in the second quarter, when a couple quarterback runs led to their running back punching one in from the half yard line. They would miss the extra point, however, wide right.
Those would be the only points scored on the day from either team, as Needham’s defense and running game took over. Braintree kept trying to throw the ball, but on numerous occasions, Marco Belibasakis and Jaqari London would slap the ball out of a receiver’s hands. Braintree’s offensive line, meanwhile, rarely moved Needham off the ball. Offensively, Tyler Reid’s running controlled the clock, with a couple hard counts helping Needham get off their own goal line after a good Braintree punt.
Still, a bunch of Needham penalties caused all sorts of offensive issues. At one point in the third quarter, the Rockets had back-to-back pre-snap penalties, and an untimely late hit on a bobbled punt return. Worse, while they were trying to run out the clock late in the fourth quarter, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty essentially erased the progress Tyler Reid had made on a long run, highlighted by an incredibly intelligent cutback to stay in bounds. After Braintree wasted a timeout when the clock was already stopped due to a holding penalty, The Wamps received the ball with about 46 seconds left.
Two long passes later, and the Wamps were knocking on the door of a chance to tie the game. The only thing the Braintree quarterback couldn’t do - since his team had no timeouts left - was take a sack. Unfortunately for him, his mobility was an issue after a huge hit by Steve Mackenzie a bit earlier in the game left him limping around the field. After avoiding a defender on the play before, with seventeen seconds left, the pass rush got to him and a sack ended the game.
For coach Doug Kopcso, the team’s composure made all the difference, a message loudly echoed by the players as much as the coaches.
“That was a big victory for us,” he said. “It’s been a tough season for the guys. They’ve been scrapping and to come out with a ‘W’ is huge for us. We were preaching composure all week and the best part is, the ‘we’ was the players. We’ve been talking about it, but the players were talking about staying calm, staying at their depths and playing their assignments, doing their job and cheering on their teammates. We saw that tonight.”
When it came to who stood out in the performance, Coach Kopcso pointed to his captain, running back Tyler Reid, who would have had a better game if the referees didn’t get such a kick out of throwing their pink breast cancer awareness flags on seemingly every play.
“Tyler Reid had probably his best game of the year, because he wasn’t’ just putting up the big plays, but making those little chunk plays that he’s so good at. He was running north and south. The line blocked well for him and our defense really stepped up.”
With their first win under their belts, the message to the team was simple: keep it going.
“Just keep it going,” said the coach. “The guys played as a team; the sideline was absolutely on fire - the loudest we’ve been all year, everyone was pumped up. So just keep the program heading in the right direction, keep supporting each other, keep working hard and we’ll be great.”