NEEDHAM — For Needham coach David Duffy, it was all about momentum.
With the Rockets trailing by 7 late in the first quarter, Wellesley quarterback and punter Jake Mohan set up behind the line of scrimmage, preparing to kick the ball downfield.
Senior Josh Celado raced in after the snap and blocked Mohan’s punt attempt.
Trevor Schofield recovered the ball and took it to the Wellesley 2-yard line. Then Sam Hurvitz ran it in to tie the game at 7.
“That was a huge deal,” Duffy said.
Needham added two more touchdowns before halftime, eventually defeating Wellesley, 27-13, in the 127th meeting of the nation’s oldest public school rivalry.
Needham finished its season at 8-3, and Wellesley fell to 6-5.
Junior quarterback Sam Foley connected for two touchdowns, and senior wide receiver and defensive back Cliff Kurker finished his day with a touchdown and an interception.
Needham won seven of its final eight games after starting the season 1-2. After the game, Duffy told his squad they “were one of the greatest Needham teams ever.”
“They’re a total team, right from the first day we issued equipment back in June,” Duffy said. “They’re great leaders. We’ve had some big wins along the way, and now we finish it with a win over Wellesley. It’s just been a great team.”
The victory also represents the Rockets’ fourth over the Raiders in the past five years.
Wellesley took its only lead of the game with 9:25 left in the first quarter. Mohan saw an open Jack Dolan on the far side and hit him with a 12-yard touchdown pass.
Needham tied it less than seven minutes later.
In the second quarter, Foley dropped back and saw an open Kurker deep on the near side. Foley connected with Kurker, who took it 68 yards for a 14-7 Needham lead.
“The line blocked, we saw a corner was playing way off, and Cliff made a huge play,” Foley said. “Set the table for the rest of the game.”
“He was about 10 yards off,” Kurker added. “Coach said, ‘We’re gonna get a quick hitch.’ Beat him, and it was sort of a leg race from there. I pride myself on being one of the faster guys; I was happy to outrun him.”
Foley later hit Celado with a 10-yard touchdown as Needham went into halftime leading 20-7.
Needham tacked on another quick score early in the second half as Jack Roque galloped 28 yards for a touchdown.
“Coach called great plays. The line did a great job,” Foley said. “We really came together. Great way to finish it up.”