When you look a little further down the program, it’s apparent the Rockets are pretty well set for the future.
For years, the freshmen team has served as a feeder system for the varsity, and this year the freshmen squad dominated nearly every team it faced, going unbeaten with an 11-0 mark, and outscoring the opposition by an impressive 299-51 margin.
“Football is an incredibly demanding sport, especially for ninth-graders, and the team’s success this year was due to its commitment to both the physical and academic aspects of the game,” said the team’s head coach, Steve Koup, who is also an English teacher at Needham High. “I feel that the boys were always willing to challenge themselves each day during practice as we created game plans for each of our opponents. They are fast learners and seemed to enjoy the weekly addition of new schemes and plays.”
Things just keep getting better for the incoming ninth-graders as the current sophomore, junior and senior classes have each had a great deal of success as freshmen as well. Every class won at least seven games in its first season playing Rockets football, and that has culminated into the players growing into a strong varsity unit with this year’s 9-2 record and last season’s share of the Bay State Conference Carey Division title.
“The team’s success certainly speaks well of the town’s youth football program and paints a bright picture for the future of the varsity team and Rocket football as a whole,” said Koup.
According to the town’s Touchdown Club, this is the first undefeated freshmen team ever, and the combined record of the Needham High program is the best in at least the last 40 years.
The freshmen began the season on Sept. 11 with a 33-2 shellacking of Milton at home, followed by a 28-6 triumph over Newton North five days later. The Rockets then had their first road contest on Sept. 24, travelling to Norwood, and coming away with a 19-0 victory.
The next two games were the most competitive of the season. On Oct. 4, Needham defeated Weymouth, 27-14, and came away with a hard-fought 12-7 win four days later against Natick to improve to 5-0.
The Rockets then began a run of three straight shutouts – 33-0 at Brookline on Oct. 15, 13-0 vs. Walpole on Oct. 22, and 27-0 at Framingham on Oct. 29. They began November with a 27-6 home win vs. Dedham, and had their best offensive showing of the season in a 46-16 victory at Braintree on Nov. 12.
The freshmen capped their sensational season with a 34-0 home win against Wellesley on Nov. 20.
Jack Walsh was awarded the team’s defensive MVP, leading a unit that had five shutouts and allowed just 4.6 points per game. Walsh lined up at linebacker and also played fullback. Ryan Charter was given the offensive MVP at quarterback for a squad that averaged just over 27 points per contest. Rashawn Wise was named the team’s overall MVP for his efforts at running back and linebacker.
In addition to Walsh, Charter and Wise, the following players contributed to the team’s success this fall: Cam Beagan, Tim Prokesch, Zach Goldman, Stephen Marciello, Mike Panepinto, Aiden O’Connor, Carter Christenson, John Bernard, Jack Steverman, Jacob Nikolajczyk, Matt Hamel, Dante Coppola, Brendan Timmerman, Jake Schernecker, Kyle Bourke, Ryan Wentworth, Mike Manigault, Andrew Hernberg, Jack Gowetski, Zach Kohl, Evan Turner, DJ Carbone, Cody Mosgrove, Mikey Elcock, Ben Glickman, David Lynch and Taylor Kay-Green.
Koup has been coaching the team for the past six years and is assisted by Mark D’Angelo, a special education teacher at Needham High. D’Angelo was tasked with calling the offensive plays. The Touchdown Club and Steve Schernecker were also a great help to the team, providing game film and statistics throughout the season.