Jack Hayes’s late stop gives Needham thrilling win over Wellesley
NEEDHAM — On the road, late in the fourth quarter, Wellesley went for the win.
Instead, the Raiders ran into Jack Hayes.
After Hugh Callahan hauled in a 20-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Maalik Sinclair to cut the Rockets’ lead to 1 with just over four minutes left in the fourth quarter of their 131st Thanksgiving Day game, the Raiders decided to go for the 2-point conversion, and the lead.
Instead, Hayes sniffed out the pitch and stopped the Raiders (5-6) short, preserving the Rockets’ 14-13 win over their Bay State Conference archrival at Needham High. It’s the first time in three years Needham has won the rivalry’s Frederick C. Gorman Trophy.
“We knew it was a big play and that it was going to save the game,” Hayes said. “This is a game that I’ve been looking forward to my whole life. So, it’s great being able to come out of here with the win.”
After Needham turned over the ball on downs from its 39-yard line on the game’s first series, both teams fumbled away their ensuing possessions on consecutive snaps.
Midway through the second quarter, Tyler Reid bulldozed his way past the goal line for an 8-yard touchdown run to give the Rockets a 7-0 lead before halftime.
Running back Shiloh White scored on a 68-yard touchdown run on the Raiders’ opening possession of the second half, tying the game at 7-7.
Needham senior Matt Smith returned the ensuing kickoff 76 yards to give Needham the lead again, 14-7.
“I knew it was cold and that it was going to be hard to get the ball in the end zone on offense,’’ Smith said. “So I just tried to take it in my own hands.”
Sinclair connected with Callahan late in the fourth quarter to bring Wellesley within 1 at 14-13.
After Hayes’s stop, linebacker Marc Cifiello sealed the win for Needham with an interception on fourth and 25.
“I’m so proud of this team,” Needham coach Doug Kopcso said. “They’ve been fighting and scrapping for four years. They’re really talented, good athletes and great kids. They deserve every last bit of celebration today.”
Wellesley leads the series, 62-60-6.
More photos from the game: