After losing a large core of talent with the departure of last year's senior class, which included the likes of Duke tight end Matt Smith and Assumption quarterback Charlie Ogletree, Needham High football entered the 2019 season with a lot of figuring out to do on both sides of the ball.
On Friday, the new-look Rockets traveled to face quarterback Will Lederman and rival Herget Division power Natick. Junior Will McDonald got the start for Needham at quarterback. On Needham's opening possession, McDonald completed a 13-yard pass to senior captain and slot back Odahri Hibberts for a first down. Unfortunately, the drive was stalled out following back-to-back sacks and Needham was forced to punt.
The Needham defense stood tall on its opening series by forcing a punt. McDonald and the offense, however, were forced to a three-and-out on its ensuing series. A 46-yard touchdown run by Lederman on the second play of the ensuing possession gave Natick a 7-0 lead with 2:14 remaining in the first. Natick's defense quickly forced another three-and-out before Lederman again ran one in, this time from 24 yards out, as the Redhawks went up 14-0 with 0:04 remaining in the opening quarter.
The teams exchanged punts to begin the second quarter before Lederman hooked up with Jimmy Grieshaber for a 37-yard touchdown on a post-pattern with 3:19 remaining to extend the Natick lead to 21-0. Aidan Hawley picked off McDonald on the first play of the ensuing possession for the Rockets, running it down to the two-yard line. Jayln Ponte punched it in on the next play to make it a 28-0 game at halftime.
Needham's offense was unable to get into a rhythm in the second half, as McDonald was picked off by Jake Adelmann late in the third quarter, followed by a 23-yard touchdown run by Jake Dunlap to make it a 35-0 lead for Natick at the end of three. Nizayah Montas sealed the victory for Natick with a 54-yard touchdown run on Natick's opening series of the fourth quarter, as the Redhawks prevailed by a final of 42-0.
Needham will look to get back on track on Friday in their home opener against Tewksbury.