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Natick 49, Needham 24

Sound familiar? Flutie heads comeback

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By Anthony Gulizia
Globe Correspondent / October 29, 2011

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NATICK - The two top teams in the Bay State Conference squared off in a heavyweight matchup last night, with No. 13 Needham and No. 17 Natick trading blows through the first three quarters.

But quarterback Troy Flutie orchestrated a 21-point fourth quarter as the Red and Blue pulled away to beat Needham, 49-24, at Memorial Park.

“Our offense was clicking, we did a couple different things, and Troy made a couple good checks at the line,’’ Natick coach Mark Mortarelli said. “Nick Lee ran very hard and our O-line played great.”

Flutie displayed his awareness under center and constantly checked the line, calling out blocks as he ran the draw play.

The sophomore quarterback ran 24 times for 108 yards and two touchdowns and completed 11 of 14 passes for 167 yards and another score.

“Our O-line did their jobs, and all our guys knew what they were doing,’’ Flutie said. “All I had to do was tell them what to do and they did it.”

Natick (7-1) carried a 21-17 lead into halftime, but Needham (6-2) went ahead on its first drive of the second half, with Mike Vespa running 9 yards for the touchdown.

The go-ahead score was costly for the Rockets, though.

Vespa lowered his head and steamrolled a Natick defender on his way to the end zone, and suffered another hit on the way down. After racking up 114 yards on 15 carries, Vespa sat out the rest of the game with a concussion.

After Vespa left, Natick posted 28 unanswered points.

Lee (12 carries, 58 yards) scored on a 2-yard run to make it 28-24, then Natick’s defense shut down Needham to force a three-and-out.

On the ensuing possession, Flutie ran for a 6-yard score, his second of the game, with 9:33 left in the fourth quarter.

“We needed that three-and-out bad, they were gassing our defense,” Mortarelli said. “We made a couple of adjustments that seemed to work and our kids got some confidence and we played the defense we’re used to playing.”

Freshman running back Brian Dunlap (2 catches, 44 yards; 4 rushes, 67 yards) added an electric 36-yard run after another Needham three-and-out, and Lee finished the scoring with a 7-yard run with 3:33 left.

After trailing, 10-7, in the first quarter, Natick outscored Needham, 14-7, on runs by Dunlap and Flutie to take the lead.

On the game’s first drive, Needham lost senior running back Ian Riley with a right knee injury. With senior quarterback Drew Burnett already sidelined with a broken ankle, the Rockets’ offense was stagnant without its star-studded backfield.

But Needham coach Dave Duffy didn’t blame the injuries for the loss.

“That’s an excellent team, they might have beat us if we were totally healthy,” Duffy said. “They executed flawlessly. Hopefully we’ll get those guys back, but we need to get the young guys up to speed.’’