Going into the 2017 campaign, the Needham football team knew this season would be a little different than years past.

Going into the 2017 campaign, the Needham football team knew this season would be a little different than years past.

For better or for worse.

See the Rockets recognized they had something they’d never really possessed in the three-plus decades that Dave Duffy has coached this team.

They had s-p-e-e-d. Speed.

Ever since a 17-0 loss to Natick in Week 1, Needham has put that speed on display, winning four straight contests by a point differential of 92-51.

The latest Needham victory came last Friday, as the Rockets beat Framingham by a score of 24-8 to improve their record to 4-1 on the season.

“[Speed is] something we don’t have every year,” Duffy said. “So it’s quite the luxury for me as a coach to know we can score from anywhere on the field at any time. It puts a lot of pressure on [the other team’s] offense to match it too.”

Needham has been too much for Walpole (6-0), Newton North (28-27), Weymouth (34-16) and Framingham to match over the past four weeks.

In their latest victory over the Flyers, Needham scored all of its touchdowns on plays of 35 yards or more.

Following a field goal from senior Alex Sliney in the second quarter – which made it 3-0 Rockets – Needham junior Charlie Ogleetree found sophomore Odahri Hibberts for a 35-yard passing TD to make it 10-0 going into halftime.

In the third quarter, senior captain Charlie Sumner found junior Matt Smith for an 80-yard TD connection before Sumner connected with senior captain John Andre for a 35-yard score to make it 24-0 in the third quarter.

And although it took until Week 3 for the offense to finally sync up and use that speed, the Rockets are trending in the right direction.

“I feel we’re getting better every week, which is a great feeling,” Duffy said. “We’re pretty healthy, with no recent injuries and like I said we’re getting better every week and the kids are working hard and when you win it’s a lot easier to come to practice and stay focused.”

Needham now has the luxury of forcing teams to focus their attention away from the ole’ ground-and-pound ways of the Rockets to a more spread-them-out style of offense.

“It’s nice to start something new and show teams something they have never seen before in our offense,” Sumner said. “It is also very helpful when we have four great threats with Andre, Smith, Hibberts and [Jack] Murmes to spread the ball around to, which can be very scary for other teams.”

In perhaps the biggest game of the year for the Rockets so far – when they held on to beat Newton North in Week 3 – Needham’s offense once again came up with some big plays from all over on the field.

Sumner and Smith connected for a 54-yard TD reception, while Ogletree connected with Hibberts for a 59-yard TD pass.

Those scores – coupled with a Sumner 1-yard QB sneak for a TD and a 6-yard rushing score from Hibberts – proved to be just enough for Needham against the Tigers in Week 3 before blowing out both Weymouth and Framingham.

Next on the docket for the Rockets is a trip to Braintree on Saturday (2:30 p.m.).

The Wamps are 3-2 overall and 2-1 in Bay State Conference Carey division play.

A win would go a long way in helping Needham stay atop the league standings as the Rockets are hoping to take the league title after not claiming it last season.

“We have a big challenge in front of us,” Duffy said. “The kids are excited. We didn’t win the league last year but we did the year before. We had an off year for numerous reasons.”

And last year’s failures are serving as a driving force for this year’s team.

“It’s great motivation and good confidence for a team and a program that has always seemed to be struggling in the first few games,” Sumner said of his team’s start to the season. “I believe that this is the first time in at least three years that our team has had a 4-1 record, which brings a lot of energy and a lot of motivation to get the Bay State championship and then hopefully go get a state championship for this town.”

A league title and state title are goals – albeit lofty ones – for any team that’s 4-1 at this time of year.

But this year isn’t like many others for the Rockets because they have speed.

And they’re going to use it.

Tommy Cassell can be reached at 508-626-4405 or tcassell@wickedlocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @tommycassell44.