On Thanksgiving morning, with low temps and high spirits, Needham brought home a 21-7 victory over Wellesley in the 136th annual Needham-Wellesley Turkey Day football game. Coming off their defeat in the state semifinals the week before, the Rockets bounced back with their first Thanksgiving victory since 2018, to finish the 2023 season with an impressive 10-2 record.
The Needham-Wellesley football rivalry dates back to 1882, just after West Needham split to form Wellesley. For more than a century, the game has been a source of school spirit and excitement for fans and players alike, with this year being no different. Despite the cold temperatures, students and families from both towns came together to honor the country’s longest running public school football rivalry.
Fans of both the Needham Rockets and Wellesley Raiders filled the stands with energy and excitement to watch the two teams square off. One avid fan stated that for him, the game was “really all about community. I love seeing the families come together on Thanksgiving for this.” One Needham student said he was “so glad to see how many fans came today,” and that “spirits are at an all-time high.” The abundance of school spirit and pride at the game was more than welcome as they seem to be in short supply at other high school events these days.
Encouraged by their fans, both teams put everything they had into the game. After two hours, the legendary matchup ended with a Rockets victory, and friends and family poured onto the field to congratulate the winners.
After the game, the Observer spoke with head coach Doug Kopcso about the challenges of coaching such a tense and competitive game while also maintaining the spirit of the holiday. “It’s about balancing respect and competition,” he said. “Everyone is here to have a good time.”
Josh Rosenberg is a junior at Needham High School.