When Bishop Hendricken beat La Salle in December in the Division I Super Bowl, it looked like the final statement for the Hawks’ senior class over their counterparts on the Rams.
Two years in a row, Hendricken won the Super Bowl against a heavily favored La Salle team.
But even though those seniors on both sides have now graduated, with many moving on to play college football in the fall, it turns out that the Super Bowl wasn’t quite the last straw after all.
With the disbarment of the annual Governor’s Cup game this season, which had pitted the best seniors from Rhode Island against the best seniors from Connecticut in an exhibition game every summer for the past 13 years, Rhode Island added a new piece to its summer football agenda – the Rhode Island All-Star Game.
It’s comprised of players from the East and from the West. Not coincidentally, then, the East ended up with Hendricken players while the West ended up with those from La Salle.
The power struggle between the two schools may not be completely what the game is about, but for the Hendricken seniors playing in the game, it’s certainly a huge part of their thought process leading up to the opening kick on Saturday at 4 p.m. at Bryant University.
“The schools on the West side, everyone has rivalries against – La Salle, Cranston East, Cranston West,” said Hendricken lineman Joe Vincent, who is considering trying to walk-on to the URI team in the fall. “It’s till a huge rivalry. It’s basically Hendricken vs. La Salle again. That’s the way we look at it.”
He’s not alone in that mindset. Joining Vincent on the East team are Hendricken teammates Romario Rousseau, Michael Crisione, Marco DelVecchio, Bobby Lineberger, Tyler Joseph and Anthony Markey.
They’d all like to cap their high school careers with one more victory over their biggest rival. La Salle standouts like running back Josh Morris, receiver Mitch DaSilva, quarterback Anthony Francis, receiver Tyneil Cooper, linebacker Martin Bannerman and linebacker Alex Croce are all playing, as are defensive end Jairan Brown, defensive lineman Connor Morenzi and offensive lineman Mark Harpootian.
“No disrespect to them, they have great athletes, great players,” DelVecchio said. “I think collectively as a team, Hendricken is better, and that’s why we decided to play again. Maybe one or two of them can beat us, but when we’re together they can’t beat us.”
Of course, there are other reasons for the seven Hendricken players taking the field as well. Many of them are just looking for one last chance to put on a helmet and play football.
It’s not an easy game to just give up.
“I’m happy that all my friends are here,” Markey said. “It’s a lot of hard work. People are at the beach right now, but we’re not at the beach. We’re on the field hustling. I know there’s a lot of kids that make that the reason they aren’t here.”
It doesn’t hurt that with seven Hendricken players, there are no shortage of friends on the field to play alongside.
“It’s a great opportunity to put the pads on one last time and be with your boys out here,” Joseph said. “It’s a really great experience, and I’m happy to be here.”
The other dynamic at play is lining up alongside players from other teams who weren’t exactly friends during the regular season. While La Salle was Hendricken’s chief rival, teams like Portsmouth and Barrington were competitive, strong squads as well. Players like Portsmouth quarterback Bobby Chavous and running back Matt Greenman, and Barrington quarterback Jacob Simons are now sharing a uniform color with the Hawks.
It hasn’t been a problem.
“During the season, it’s a rivalry,” Vincent said. “In the off-season and times like this, we do come together. We all try to make each other better. Now when we see this talent and we get to play with them, it makes us all better.”
Coaching the East team is Hendricken defensive coordinator Mike Green, and much of the Hawks’ coaching staff – including offensive coordinator Frank Pantaleo – are part of the East coaching staff as well.
That makes everyone feel a little bit more at home, and it also gives the players an opportunity to give back to a coaching staff that has provided them with quite a bit over the last few years.
“It’s a little something to give back to them, after all they gave us,” Rousseau said.
But when the pads go on Saturday, and the players take the field across from many familiar faces – including those from La Salle – they’ll really only be thinking about one thing.
One more win to close out their careers.
“La Salle is coming for us one last time – everyone knows it,” DelVecchio said. “We’re just trying to end our high school career on a high note.”
Pilgrim defensive end Taylor Stringfellow is also playing in the game, although he is playing for the West team.