The border war between Needham in Wellesley in suburban Boston is the oldest official Thanksgiving Day football rivalry in the country. Yet, in all the editions of the game played for the Gorman Trophy since the teams first met in 1882, there has never been one like Thursday’s.
The uniqueness of the game had everything to do with the setting rather than the score. Needham topped Wellesley 12-7 in a tight defensive struggle at Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox and as American a setting as there is in sports.
As is usually the case between the two rivals, the game went down to the wire. Trailing by five, Wellesley rallied to put together a long drive to reach the shadow of the end zone as time wound down. Then Needham’s defense stiffened, just in time. The Raiders had a full shot at the end zone late in the fourth quarter only for Needham to thwart their end zone advance by sniffing out a read-option on a fourth down with 3:46 remaining. Then they got the ball back but had a last second pass deflected by Needham’s Luke Pascucci near the end zone, as you can see directly below.
Game, set, match Rockets, in full Fenway glory.
In the end, the winning score was a 26-yard touchdown reception by Needham receiver John Andre. The other Needham touchdown? A 97-yard touchdown return on the final play of a first half full of drama. It was a memorable one for Andre and the entire Needham football family, which celebrated a victory in a setting it never had before, and may or may not again anytime soon.