High School: Wellesley wins OT thriller over Needham in 134th installment of the country’s oldest public school rivalry

WELLESLEY – When you’re a part of the oldest public school rivalry in the country it’s hard to make memories that everyone in attendance will remember forever, but Carlos Giron and Louis Person did that for the Raiders and everyone wearing red and black on Thursday morning.

Giron had a huge pass break up on fourth down to end Needham’s first possession in OT, then one play later Person rumbled in from 10-yards out to give Wellesley an unforgettable 34-28 win. 

On paper, Wellesley was supposed to throttle Needham in the 134th Thanksgiving meeting. Instead, the teams went to overtime in what turned out to be an instant classic. The Raiders finish at 8-3 while Needham ends its season at 2-9. 

“That’s Thanksgiving,” Wellesley head coach Jesse Davis said. “Needham is unbelievably well coached, they’re a tough football team, they were ready. They took it to us but we were able to make one more play. It means a lot, it means a lot to our seniors. We have a small senior class. They did an unbelievable job going through Covid, we just played football seven months ago.

“For them to lead our team through the offseason, to get over all the hurdles and fight through all the adversity, this is a credit to our seniors. They played their asses off today.”

Prior to Giron’s big play, the Raiders thought they had a fourth down stop, but a player’s helmet came off and a flag was thrown. The refs discussed and eventually called offsetting calls since they hadn’t seen how it came off. Giron made the play on the next snap and then Person scored on Wellesley’s first play, setting off a wild celebration.

“I’m not going to lie, I got nervous,” Person said of the odd controversial call. “The defense came through, I knew I had a job to do on offense and we got the win. I had 20 family members come out today, first time ever,” added Person. “It was just a great experience overall.”

“Coaches just kept us going through it and told us to play hard,” added Giron. “Last play he ran that out and I was just sitting waiting for it. My coaches were telling me it was going to be there, I’m just glad I was there and able to make the play.”

Wellesley led 14-7 after one thanks to a two-yard run from Person and a 25-yard pick six for Sam Gear. Needham’s score was a 55-yard touchdown catch from Ryan Hanigan. Wellesley pushed the lead to 21-7 on a 19-yard touchdown run for Jacob Parker. With one second left in the half, the Rockets cut it to 21-14 with a 16-yard touchdown catch by Hanigan on a nice ball from Jay Kastantin. 

Needham tied the game at 21 all with a two-yard run by Adrian Rufo, capping a six-minute drive to start the third quarter. Three plays later Gear had a ridiculous one-handed catch that went for a 55-yard touchdown after Vincent Ferrara rolled out to buy time, putting the Raiders up 28-21. The Rockets tied the game with 6:17 remaining on a five-yard TD run by Rufo. 

As players, coaches and the enormous Wellesley student section celebrated on the field, exchanging hugs, tears and “can you believe its?’ the raw emotion on display signified that Thanksgiving football was officially back.

“That was an unbelievable football game,” Davis added. “All the credit goes to our coaches and players for the practice week we had. It was eye-opening in the beginning when they came out and punched us, but we were able to hang on. Really proud of our kids.”