WELLESLEY HILLS – Needham quarterback Jay Kastantin lit up Wellesley’s secondary in the second half, and the Rockets were four yards away from a go-ahead touchdown in overtime.
Carlos Giron stepped up on defense, and Louis Person rewarded him one play later on offense.
Person rushed for a 10-yard touchdown in overtime, and Wellesley retained the Frederick J. Gorman Centennial Trophy with a 34-28 win over Needham on Thanksgiving at Hunnewell Field.
“There’s literally no better person I’d like to end the football game,” said Wellesley coach Jesse Davis. “We were able to make one more play. I’m proud of our guys.”
Wellesley (8-3) beat Needham for the third consecutive year and leads the oldest public-school football rivalry in the country, 65-60-9.
Needham senior co-captain Adrian Rufo (25 carries, 82 yards) tried to run it up the middle on first down to start overtime, only to have Xavier Ferrara drop him for a 2-yard loss. Kastantin’s next pass fell incomplete, but he found Brady Ross for a 6-yard completion on third down.
The Rockets opted to try for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 4-yard line. Offsetting penalties caused a replay on fourth down, setting the stage for Giron to dive in front of his receiver to knock away the pass and end the drive.
Person (12 carries, 58 yards) took the handoff on first down, waited for Jacob Parker to set up as a lead blocker, then barreled into the endzone for the winning score.
The entire Wellesley sideline promptly mobbed Person to celebrate.
“I know (Parker) is going to take the first guy coming on, so all I have to do is make a cut and get in the endzone,” Person said. “I followed him to the promised land.”
Wellesley led by as much as 14-0 in the first quarter, as Person ran in a 5-yard touchdown and senior captain Sam Gear returned an interception for a score one play later. Kastantin found Ryan Hanigan (6 receptions, 163 yards) on his next drive, but Parker answered with a 20-yard touchdown in the second quarter.
Kastantin (19-for-36, 265 yards) connected with Hannigan again with one second left in the first half to get within 21-14. Rufo then tied the game on a 4-yard burst midway through the third quarter.
Wellesley retook the lead when Gear made a one-handed catch and took off for a 55-yard touchdown pass from Vincent Ferrara (11-for-19, 205 yards) late in the third, but the Rockets (2-9) outgained the Raiders 225-39 in offensive yards after halftime.
Rufo tied the game 28-28 on a 5-yard run with 6:17 left in the fourth.
“The bounces haven’t gone our way this year, but we know just how good we are and can be,” said Needham coach Doug Kopcso. “I think we showed that today.”