WELLESLEY — Defense may not have won the Wellesley football team a championship this season, but it gave the Raiders a huge boost on Thanksgiving.
The Raiders forced five turnovers, picking off four passes to pave the way to a 23-20 victory over Needham at Wellesley High on Thursday morning. The Raiders (6-5) extended their slim lead in the series to 62-59-9 in the 130th edition of the nation’s oldest high school football rivalry.
“Defense won us the football game, and turnovers,” said Wellesley coach Jesse Davis. “[We] had good command of the offense, and our defense made plays when they needed to.”
The Rockets (6-5) marched down the field in a nine-play opening drive, capped off with a 10-yard touchdown pass from Charlie Ogletree to John Andre. The extra-point attempt was blocked, and senior captain Josh Cohen scooped it up and rumbled 94 yards for the 2-point score to make it 6-2.
After a punt, the Wellesley defense took it upon itself to score more points. D’Aunte Moore picked off the first pass of the ensuing drive and returned it 19 yards to the house for an 8-6 lead.
Another interception led to a short field for the Raiders, which Shiloh White turned into a 5-yard touchdown run.
After forcing a three-and-out, Wellesley was intercepted, and Ogletree made them pay by hitting Andre in stride for a 60-yard touchdown pass with 18 seconds left in the half to make it 15-13 at the break.
The Rockets took a 20-15 lead in their opening drive of the third quarter, Ogletree finding Matt Smith for 57 yards.
But the defense set up Wellesley once again, as Moore picked off his second pass of the day and was rewarded with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Matt Maiona. Maiona added the 2-point run to make it 23-20, and sealed the win with an interception.
Dan McLoone can be reached at email@example.com