Bishop Hendricken has won three consecutive Super Bowls, but only the first of those title runs included a regular-season championship. With the Division I crown up for grabs Friday night as Barrington visits Warwick for a battle of unbeatens, the Hawks have their sights set squarely on the prize.
“Obviously we’ve had some success, but the last time a Hendricken team won the regular season title was 2010, and before that, it was probably going back to 1995,” head coach Keith Croft said. “Like we told the kids yesterday, it doesn’t happen that often so it’s something we’re trying to make the most of.”
The game is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Hendricken. It’s the third in a string of four marquee match-ups on the Hawks’ late-season schedule. They’re two-for-two thus far, but the match-up with Barrington may represent the toughest challenge. And with the regular season title in play – the winner will get at least a share of it and the inside track at an outright championship, plus the No. 1 seed in the playoffs – this one may have the most at stake, as well.
“I don’t think having the No. 1 seed means much once the playoffs start,” Croft said. “But all things being equal, I’d rather finish in first than anywhere else.”
The Hawks and Eagles are both 6-0 in league play, while Barrington is 8-0 overall thanks to an extra non-league game. Hendricken is 7-0 overall.
Ever since the Eagles knocked off then-No. 2 Cranston East in the second week of the season, Friday’s match-up with the Hawks has been circled.
“They’re probably the most well-balanced team in the state,” Croft said. “I think they have a very solid offense, very solid defense, good line play, two good running backs. They’re kind of a typical Barrington team.”
Running back James Murphy and fullback John Martin carry a big load for the Eagles, who rushed for 366 yards in their win over East. The line is big and physical, and the running attack is more of a power game than anything Hendricken has seen this season.
“I think we need to stop their running game, which is their bread and butter,” Croft said. “And I think we have to answer their physicality. That’s a concern I think for anybody that they play. They put it all together. Their fullback is physical, their tailback is big and fast.”
The Hawks are coming off a bye week and are generally healthy. The Eagles may be a little more banged up, thanks to a grind-it-out game with La Salle last week. Barrington won 7-6 on a fourth quarter touchdown.
That win – and the way it was delivered – was another sign of Barrington’s ability. On top of solid talent, the Eagles know how to win.
“They’re a veteran team, lot of poise, lot of composure,” Croft said.
The same could be said of the Hawks, although they haven’t been pushed very hard in recent weeks. Portsmouth took a 7-0 led and then was buried under a string of quick strikes. The week before, Hendricken rolled up nearly 500 yards rushing against Cranston East.
Senior running back Remington Blue, who only needed six carries to score four touchdowns against Portsmouth, will likely see a bigger load as the Hawks finish up against Barrington and La Salle. Blue has already cracked the 1,000-yard mark this year and he owns 17 rushing touchdowns.
The Eagles will do their best to slow Blue down, but that’s something no one has come close to doing this year. If they manage to contain him, they’ll still have to contend with some Hendricken standouts who have only scratched the surface of what they’re capable of, like fullback Gary Gibbs and receiver Lee Moses.
All in all, the Hawks are feeling good. And with a shot at a regular-season title – and the No. 1 seed – they’ll be ready for another challenge.
“We tell them all the time, ‘This is what you’re here for, what you came to Hendricken for,’” Croft said. “If we lose the game, it’s not going to be because we’re rattled or because of the pressure. It’s something that we preach to them and instill in them in practice.”