NEEDHAM — The 135th edition of the country’s oldest public school Thanksgiving rivalry was another classic.
Leading by 7 with a little more than two minutes to go, Wellesley got an interception from junior linebacker Darren Jimenez. Needham had one last chance to drive about 80 yards in the final seconds. After one last lateral play failed, Wellesley’s sideline spilled onto the field and celebrated with students and fans, but … not so fast.
Officials determined that the Rockets could have one untimed down, and finally, after another lateral play didn’t result in anything, the Raiders sprinted to the Frederick J. Gorman Centennial Trophy and brought it back out to the field to celebrate their 24-17 win.
The victory was Wellesley’s fourth straight over its rival and wrapped up another successful season at 8-3. Needham fell to 5-6.
“I saw the running back sneak out, he was wide open, so I just slipped under it and I was gone,” said Jimenez of his interception. “It’s great, it’s a great feeling.”
”Any time you get a chance to play Needham and get a win, it’s a big deal for us,” said Wellesley coach Jesse Davis. “Those are tough kids over there and we were able to make one more play than them.”
It was all Raiders early as Wellesley built a 21-0 lead. Jakob Parker punched in a 1-yard touchdown run in the first, Max Poirier rumbled in from 4 yards, and Tyler Yen hauled in a 20-yard TD pass from Vincent Ferrara, with Eddie Webb adding all three extra points.
After four punts on its first four possessions, Needham finally got moving with 6:44 left in the half after taking over at the 20. A 17-play march included two fourth-down conversions and ended with quarterback Ben Chapman scoring from a yard out in the final 20 seconds. Dante Varano added the PAT to make it 21-7 at the half.
The Rockets forced a turnover on downs to open the third quarter, then cut it to 21-14 on an 8-yard hookup in the back left corner of the end zone from Chapman to his brother Spencer.
After forcing a punt, Needham got a block on the kick from Brandt Bickford and turned that into a 25-yard field goal from Varano to cut it to 21-17 heading to the fourth.
Wellesley answered with a 30-yard field goal from Webb to push the lead back to 7. The teams traded punts until Jimenez’s interception.