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Needham 42, New Bedford 14

Rockets blast off in style

Needham’s quick start dooms New Bedford

By Colleen Casey
Globe Correspondent / November 30, 2011
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WEYMOUTH - Needham scored on six of its first eight drives to defeat New Bedford, 42-14, at Weymouth High last night to earn its first playoff victory.

Needham (9-3) will face BC High Saturday in the Division 1 Super Bowl at Gillette Stadium.

“We’ve never been ahead in a playoff game before,’’ said Needham coach Dave Duffy. “The offense played great. The defense played great. We’re down some guys and New Bedford was down some guys. The kids really wanted to win.’’

Needham’s opening drive was capped by a 19-yard touchdown run by Mike Vespa. Andrew Murowchick kicked the extra point to put the Rockets ahead, 7-0.

Rashawn Wise found the end zone on Needham’s next drive, rushing 8 yards up the sideline to score. Murowchick’s kick made it 14-0 at the end of the first quarter.

New Bedford turned the ball over on downs on its first drive of the second quarter and Needham went to work. Quarterback Ryan Charter (10 of 12 passing, 183 yards) shoveled a 13-yard pass to Nico Panepinto for a touchdown that completed a 43-yard drive and Murowchick made it 21-0 with five minutes left in the half.

Charter finished the next drive with 1-yard TD on a keeper up the middle.

“They had a big defensive line,’’ said Charter, a sophomore who took over at midseason when Drew Burnett suffered a season-ending ankle injury. “There was no safety to cover our tight end. I knew if the protection was there, we would put up some points.’’

Needham chewed up 8:20 of the third quarter on a 14-play drive capped by Charter’s 1-yard run.

“We needed to get the ball back right away and we didn’t do it,’’ said New Bedford coach Dennis Golden. “They were a better team. Great job by them.’’

A spark for New Bedford came on the next play, when quarterback Mike Rapoza returned a punt 65 yards for a touchdown. The 2-point conversion failed, and it was 35-6 at the end three quarters.

“They just brought a lot of pressure and our line couldn’t deal with it,’’ Rapoza said. “It was tough. Nothing was going right. I didn’t have any time for my reads. It was tough.’’

The powerful Rockets defense sacked Rapoza five times.

Mike Panepinto found the end zone on a 17-yard run to start the fourth. Murowchick’s kick made it 42-6.

Rapoza broke through the line of scrimmage and ran 45 yards for a TD and Kevin Nunes rushed for the 2-point conversion to make the score 42-14.

Duffy said his team is looking forward to Saturday.

“It’s going to be a monumental task. [BC High is] huge. They’re well coached and they’re fast. We have a lot of pride. We’ll come out fighting. We’re not scared of anybody.’’

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