November 3, 2023
• Needham Football and Field Hockey opened up their postseasons with wins at home.
One day after Needham Girls Volleyball swept Central Catholic in their 2023 playoff opener, Football and Field Hockey followed suit, picking up wins at home. Football, ranked #3 in the MIAA Division 1 bracket, toppled #14 Westford Academy 35-17, while Field Hockey, ranked 12th, overcame a controversial finish to beat #21 Newton North 3-2.
The Rockets Football team, playing their first postseason game since 2018, got another stellar performance from Senior Running Back Tate Hoffmeister, who carried the ball 27 times for 219 yards, with two long touchdown runs, of 74 and 51 yards, both in the second half. The Needham offense had 395 total yards, with 253 on the ground and 142 through the air. Rockets Quarterback Griffin Carr completed six of twelve passes for the 142 yards along with a TD.
Over at Founders Field at DeFazio Park, the Rockets Field Hockey team faced off with the Tigers, their Bay State Conference rivals. Needham beat Newton North 4-0 back on October 2nd, but since that loss, the Tigers won eight straight before dropping their last two regular season games. Emmy Connors scored the first goal for Needham, while Jillian Flueckigr had two, one to tie it at 2, then the go ahead goal with 7:48 left in the game.
With 2:44 to play, Newton North scored what looked like the tying goal on a corner. However, the Tigers had substituted a player before the corner started, which was illegal. One ref saw the infraction, one didn’t, but the ref that saw the illegal substitution was going to allow the goal, until Rockets Head Coach Stephanie Magni pointed it out. After conferring, the two officials agreed that it shouldn’t have been a goal and reversed the call.
With the 3-2 win, Needham advances to the Round of 16, where they will travel to #5 Acton-Boxborough on Tuesday, November 7th at 5pm.
Under the lights at Memorial Park, Westford Academy got the jump on Rockets Football, taking an early 3-0 lead on a field goal that capped a 16 play drive and consumed nearly eight minutes of the first quarter. Grey Ghosts QB Jake Cullen went 6-of-10 for 48 yards on that first drive.
Trailing while heading into the second quarter, the Rockets wasted little time getting on the board, with Carr connecting with Ben Schreiber on a 44 yard TD pass. With 11:12 still to play in the half, Needham took a lead they’d never relinquish.
The Rockets would then turn to the Wildcat formation and Junior Back Aidan Williams, who scored on a 9 yard TD run with just 1:17 left in the second quarter. After recovering a fumble, a Needham field goal attempt was blocked by Westford Academy at the end of the half, so Needham’s lead was still 14-3. Hoffmeister had 16 carries for 70 yards at the break, good for nearly 4.4 yards a carry. His final tally (27 for 219) would be good for an average of over 8.1 yards per carry.
Picking up the playoff action in the 3rd quarter, the Rockets marched down the field and scored less than three minutes into the quarter, with Williams getting another touchdown form the Wildcat formation, this one a 21 yarder. After a turnover on downs by Westford, Hoffmeister broke free with his 74 yard TD and with 4:43 left in the 3rd, Needham’s lead grew to 28-3.
Hoffmeister would score his 51 yard TD with 7:38 left in the game, sandwiched in between a pair of Grey Ghosts TD passes. Despite giving up those two scores, the Rockets defense had a stellar game, holding Westford Academy to just 232 total yards and they also had four takeaways, two on fumble recoveries by Joe Kajunski and Brandt Bickford, with the other two on interceptions by Bickford and Stephen Rocamboli.
Needham Football advances to the MIAA Division 1 Elite 8, where they will host #6 Methuen, who pounded Needham’s Bay State Conference rival Natick 47-7. If they are successful against Methuen, the Rockets would advance to their first State Final 4 since going to the Super Bowl in 2011.
We have raw highlights from our football broadcast here:
#3 Football cruised over #14 Westford Academy in the Round of 16 to move on to the Elite 8! Check out some of the top plays of the night🚀🏈 BTW Needham D with 4 takeaways on the night! @NeedhamFootball @NHSRockets @BostonHeraldHS @GlobeSchools @MassVarsity pic.twitter.com/hv6ACwbfSt
— TNC Sports (@TNC_Sports) November 4, 2023
As a programming note, The Needham Channel will be broadcasting the Needham Boys and Girls Soccer doubleheader live on-air and online Sunday beginning at 3pm.
Although we were unable to do a full broadcast from the Field Hockey victory vs. Newton North, here are some highlights from the game:
TNC Sports Producer Kristen Connors will have highlights from all five of the playoff openers on Monday, just before Girls Volleyball hosts Brookline in their Round of 16 game, which TNC will broadcast live on-air and online.