Mass. High Schools: Needham Football 2019 Season Preview

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Needham High School football coach Doug Kopsco directs his players through a practice drill. (PHOTO: Matt Noonan/

By Matt Noonan | @MattyNoonz11

For Doug Kopsco, his first season as the head coach of the Needham High School football team seemed to go pretty well.

Kopsco’s Rockets posted a winning record of 7-4 last fall, which included a postseason win over Newton North in the quarterfinals of the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) D1 South playoffs and an exciting one-point victory over archrival Wellesley on Thanksgiving Day.

Heading into his second season with his alma mater’s football program, Kopsco appears more relaxed. In fact, he seems to be enjoying his new role with the Rockets, who are expected to once again contend for a Bay State Conference (BSC) Herget title this fall. 

“Really at the end of the day, it isn’t about x’s and o’s. It is about the culture, it is about the kids and it is about the family enviornment,” said Kopsco, who was previously a coordinator for the Rockets football program before taking over for coach Dave Duffy last season.

“It’s one thing to preach it and talk about it, but it is another thing to invite that environment and share that environment, and get the kids involved with creating that culture. And I think these guys did a great job of that this year.”

Kopsco says what has made this season’s preseason so much fun has been the competition – there seems to be multiple positions up for grabs due to some graduation losses, especially on the offense.

“We have a ton of competition this year,” said Kopsco.

“Last year, I think we knew (who our starters would be), and that’s both gratifying and exciting … but this year, all spots are open, so everyone is working hard, everyone is pushing each other and there is no kind of gimme spots.”

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Needham’s 2019 Football Season Outlook

Needham’s 2018 SeasonThe Rockets enjoyed a successful first season under coach Doug Kopsco, winning five of seven regular-season contests along with one postseason game, too.

Their run toward an MIAA D1 South championship concluded in the semifinals with a 35-32 loss to Catholic Memorial, but Needham would close the season on a high note by defeating Wellesley, 14-13, on Thanksgiving Day.

Key DepaturesThe Rockets graduated some key pieces from last year’s offense, including tight end Matt Smith, who will be competing for Duke University this fall.

Jack Murmes, who was also a tight end, will be playing for Assumption College this season, while quarterback Charlie Ogletree will be suiting up for Bentley University.

Players to WatchTyler Reid returns for his final season – the senior tri-captain will be spotted in the backfield at halfback and is someone Kopsco will certainly rely on this season.

Odahri Hibberts returns for his final season – he will be lining up in the slot and at cornerback on defense.

Ryan Villa is back for his final season with the Rockets and will be playing offensive tackle and guard.

Filling the holes on defenseWith just two student-athletes returning on defense with starting experience, Kopsco and his staff will be looking for some new additions this fall to fill all three levels.

“We have on defense have two kids coming back that have starting experience, so it is all wide open,” said Kopsco, “but we have (had holes to fill on defense from previous seasons) and honestly, we ended up with some of our better defenses.”

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Upcoming ScrimmageNeedham will compete against Wayland (the game will be held at Weston) on Friday, August 30th. Kopsco is excited for his team to compete against another squad prior to their initial game of the 2019 season on Friday, September 6th at Natick.

Said Kopsco, “They are always super well-prepared, great coaching staff, and it is a wonderful time to test out where we are at this point of the season … it is a wonderful opportunity to see how much we have taken in so far.”

A challenging opening monthNeedham will certainly be tested in the first few weeks of the season when they compete against Natick (week one) and Tewksbury (week two) and Newton North (week three).

Tewksbury advanced to the MIAA D3 Super Bowl – they lost to Springfield Central at Gillette Stadium – but are expected to once again be a team to beat in Merrimack Valley Conference (MVC).

“We’re excited (about our upcoming games),” said Kopsco. “Natick’s awesome, great coaches and super-well prepared. This is going to be a super-competitive game. We won last year, but they won the year before, so I think it is a good chance to see how we can come out of the gates as a team and a family, and hopefully, we come out on top.

“(Tewksbury) is a great team. This is just a great team. They are very versatile on offense, they give you a lot of different looks, they can do a lot of different things to you, so we just need to (make sure) we’re prepared, ask good questions during the week and we need to make sure everyone knows their assignments.”

Coach Dave Duffy returns to the sidelinesAfter announcing his retirement last summer following a very impressive 19-years of coaching the Rockets, coach Dave Duffy has returned to Needham to help his former squad continue its recent success.

Kopsco is very excited to have his former coach back on the sidelines – he is certainly eager to learn more from him as the season progresses.

“We were very fortunate this year” to have coach Duffy back, explained Kopsco, who played fullback and linebacker for the Rockets before returning to the program as a defensive coordinator.

“I didn’t want to hound him too much, but I really always wanted to work with Roy Johan and Dave Duffy. I am still learning from both of them, (but) they are amazing coaches with 35 years of varsity experience between the two of them alone, so we’re really going to lean on them heavily this year to make sure we’re headed in the right direction.”

Needham’s 2019 Schedule

  • Friday, September 6th – at Natick, 6 p.m.
  • Friday, September 13th – vs. Tewksbury, 6 p.m.
  • Friday, September 20th – vs. Newton North, 6 p.m.
  • Friday, September 27th – at Weymouth, 7 p.m.
  • Friday, October 4th – at Braintree, 7 p.m.
  • Friday, October 18th – vs. Milton, 6 p.m.
  • Friday, October 25th – vs. Walpole, 6 p.m.
  • Thursday, November 28th – at Wellesley, 10 a.m.

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Eastern Massachusetts, D1 Super Bowl – Boston College High School defeats Needham, 21-7

By Dan Libon 

FOXBOROUGH, MA – For a moment it looked like it was going to be a close game.

With a 7-0 lead early in the first quarter, it appeared that Needham was going to challenge Boston College High School in the MIAA Eastern Massachusetts Division I Super Bowl. However, that didn’t happen, as the Eagles spouted off three rushing touchdowns and recorded four interceptions in their 21-7 victory.

Needham caught the Eagles special teams off guard to start the game, and then scored five plays later, as sophomore quarterback Ryan Charter found senior running back Mike Vespa for a five-yard score.

The Eagles responded with a seven-play drive that was capped off by senior running back Deontae Ramey-Doe.

Boston College High School pulled ahead early in the second quarter after Ramey-Doe scored on a 91-yard run to give the Eagles a 14-7 lead going into the half.

The final score came at the end of a 13-play drive, as Ramey-Doe once again scored from the one-yard line on a third-and-goal to lock up the team’s second Super Bowl championship in three seasons.

The Eagles Defense Was Impressive

Needham’s offense had their chances to score more than one touchdown in the second, third and fourth quarters, but the Eagles defense denied all their opportunities.

The biggest play of the game came during of the third quarter when senior Gordon McLeod picked off Charter, which then produced the game winning touchdown drive.

“A couple of them could have been caught, but we made a few mistakes. We didn’t capitalize on the field position to punch a couple touchdowns in, [so] we had our opportunities,” said Needham head coach Dave Duffy.

No Stopping Ramey-Doe

For someone who started the season as the second string running back, I think it’s safe to say that Deontae Ramey-Doe wasn’t actually that bad against Needham on Saturday.

He rushed for 200 yards on 24 carries, as well as registered three touchdowns.

Playing With Pride

Despite the disappointing ending, this was Needham’s first appearance in a Super Bowl game after losing in the semi-finals two years ago. And while a loss wasn’t exactly what Duffy or his team wanted, it certainly seemed afterward that the Rockets had nothing to hang their head on.

“I thought my kids played awesome. I’m very proud of the way they played. They hung with a big, strong, tough, fast BC High team and that’s all I could ask,” said Duffy.

Eastern Massachusetts Division I, II,III Super Bowl Predictions

Are you ready for some High School Super Bowls?


Super Saturday is upon us, which means it’s time to make some bold predictions for the upcoming Division I, II and III Eastern Massachusetts Super Bowls, which will be played at Gillette Stadium.

Here’s our staffs predictions for three Saturday championship games, enjoy.

Division III – Concord Carlisle vs. Oliver Ames

Dan Libon – If you are wondering what the Patriots could do on Saturday against the Tigers, then you might want to revisit their shutout victory from earlier this season against Lincoln Sudbury. It would be a great story if Oliver Ames comes out on top, but in all honesty, C-C has too many weapons on both sides of the ball. C-C 28 OA 17

Ryan Lanigan – The Patriots will feel right at home at Gillette Stadium, but not many teams fill the stands like the townies from Easton. There is no doubt CC is an elite team, but I’ve gone on record before saying, Oliver Ames is a team that screams “determination.” This could turn into one of the more entertaining games of the day. OA will make it close, but they’ll fall just short. C-C 24 – Oliver Ames 14.

Matt Noonan – The story of Oliver Ames has been an exciting one this year, but against the Patriots of Concord-Carlisle, I’m expecting the Tigers to lose. CC has a great offensive and defensive unit, and oh, by the way, they also lost at Gillette Stadium last year, so that’s some motivation for the Patriots to win, right? CC 28 – OA 10

Division II – Duxbury vs. Tewksbury

DLWith the longest winning streak in the state, Duxbury is in great position to win their second Division II championship in two-years. They can beat you with quarterback Matt O’Keefe or by shutting down their opponent on defense. Duxbury 14 Tewksbury 0

RL – Duxbury did a wonderful job keeping Charles Ruffin and the King Philip offense out of the end zone to advance to the Super Bowl while Tewksbury has recovered from a rough start to play in the big game. I believe Coach Dave Maimaron will have the Dragons ready to go. Duxbury 28 Tewksbury 7

MN – Hands down, I’m picking Duxbury. They’re fast, quick, aggressive and athletic, and certainly, they’ve got a quality quarterback that’s most likely going to toss two touchdowns before the buzzer sounds. Duxbury 21 – Tewksbury 7

Division – Boston College High School vs. Needham

DL – What am I most excited for in this particular matchup? Hmm… the two top tight ends in the state! Expect BC High quarterback Bartley Regan to have plenty of time in the pocket when looking for teammate Jameson McSheaBC High 28 Needham 14

RL – Both of these teams are beyond deserving to be in the Super Bowl. As a Brockton High graduate, I’ll give a lot of credit to Needham for knocking off New Bedford – our Big 3 rival. BC High has done a marvelous job recovering from the loss of star running back Preston Cooper. The Eagles defense, (four shutouts) will be clashing with a Needham team that has posted 42 points in two straight games. It will be close, but I think BC High will pull it out. BC High 21 Needham 14.

MN – After losing quarterback Drew Burnett to a season ending injury, Needham has rallied around Ryan Charter, who enters Saturday’s tilt with 14 touchdowns in six games. Needham head coach Dave Duffy admitted after Tuesday’s game that their opponent on Saturday is tough, big and physical. However, the Rockets are a team that have always exhibited a lot of heart and passion this season, so I’m expecting the underdogs to somehow find a way to knock-off the Eagles in this one. Needham 28 – BC High 24