NEEDHAM — In a game filled with momentum swings and plenty of big plays, Catholic Memorial proved its grit on the road, riding a fast start to outlast Needham, 35-32, in the Division 1 South sectional semifinal.
“The game is peaks and valleys,” CM coach John DiBiaso said. “Just like life, when you get knocked down you get back up and I thought we did a great job getting back up. We regained the momentum, but, bottom line is, we’re moving on.”
The Knights got on the board less than a minute into the contest. Following a 60-yard kickoff return from Khari Johnson, the Knights capitalized on a short field with Owen McGowan darting for a 19-yard touchdown. CM (7-2) recovered its ensuing onside kick and scored again on Jamall Griffin’s 4-yard rush.
But the Rockets were quick to get back into the game, tying it early in the second quarter on a pair of big touchdown passes by Charlie Ogletree. The first was a 90-yard catch-and-run to tight end Matt Smith on Needham’s first play from scrimmage, followed by a 48-yarder to Jack Murmes.
“Sometimes those things work out as a result of effort,” Needham coach Doug Kopcso said. “We’ve got some really hard-working, talented kids and we just kept chipping away at them. We knew we were going to break a couple.”
The Knights regrouped to take the lead again before halftime on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Barrett Pratt to Brian Stubbs Jr., one of just seven completions for Pratt.
Despite gaining 205 yards in the second half, Needham’s offense only managed two touchdowns against a CM defense that came up big when needed.
The decisive score for CM was set up by Johnson’s interception in the fourth quarter, the only turnover of the game. A six-play drive followed, capped by a 17-yard keeper by Pratt.
“Ultimately, we just didn’t capitalize,” said Kopcso. “When our offense would surge, our defense would let up a big play, or the defense shut them down and CM’s defense stepped up. We couldn’t seem to have a cohesive team effort.”
The victory sets up a rematch of last year’s D1 South final between CM and Xaverian.
“We hung in and made some big plays down the wire,” DiBiaso said. “I was proud of the way they responded to adversity.”Dan Shulman can be reached at email@example.com.