November 23, 2014
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Sports Column
Football race is close ... at least for second place

When Hendricken won the Super Bowl last year, it was a landmark event for the program, which hadn’t won a title since 1996.

But there’s a reason the Hawks won three times in a row from 1994-96 and then had to wait 15 years to raise the hardware again – it’s not easy to consistently win in that league, no matter who you are. Just ask North Kingstown, which hasn’t won a Division I game in three years.

And as hard as winning once is (Hendricken had lost its last four Super Bowl appearances prior to last year), winning again is even harder. Of the last seven champions, only Barrington has two championships to its name. La Salle has been to five of the last nine Super Bowls, but has only won once.

So talk of Hendricken repeating as champions is a hard sell. No one has repeated since East Providence did in 2002-03, and the Hawks graduated key players all over the field from last year’s championship group.

In fact, no team that won the Super Bowl has even played in the Big Game the next year since that Townies team in 2003.

Still, Hendricken has stormed to a 3-1 start in division play, and looks to be one of the favorites.

For second place, that is.

Because right now that’s all eight Division I teams are playing for.

First place, it seems, is all wrapped up. La Salle is the best team in the state – by a wide margin – and the evidence is overwhelming.

The Rams are the only undefeated team in D-I at 4-0, they’ve scored the most points (163), have given up the fewest points (66) and they’re ranked No. 1 in the Rhode Island Sports Media Poll, unanimously.

That would be one thing if they hadn’t played anybody. You see, there are two winless teams in the division – Cranston East and North Kingstown – and just about everybody figures them to still be at the bottom when it’s all said and done.

Well La Salle hasn’t played either of them yet. Instead, it’s feasted on Division I’s big boys. It has a 38-14 win over No. 3 Hendricken, a 38-21 win over No. 4 Portsmouth and a 38-10 win over No. 6 Barrington on its resume, not to mention a 35-7 win over D-III favorite Rogers, who’s ranked eighth.

Hendricken scored first against the Rams, only to have the doors blown off their gameplan the rest of the game. Barrington was only down 12-10 at half, before La Salle outscored it 26-0 after the break.

La Salle’s only loss came out of state to Massachusetts power Bridgewater-Raynham, 27-16, and the Rams were in that game every step of the way.

There’s no way around it. They’re dominant. Last year, when Hendricken won, it did so with the best team, but also with a number of gutsy efforts and close wins. Not La Salle. The closest thing La Salle has had to close games were probably its intra-squad scrimmages.

Up next, the Rams get to sink their horns into bottom-feeding North Kingstown, and that game could finish with the most lopsided result since Ivan Drago fought Apollo Creed in Rocky IV. The problem is that there’s no Rocky anywhere to come in and avenge the injustice.

I haven’t even gotten to the scary part yet: La Salle is doing it with juniors. Quarterback Anthony Francis, running back Josh Morris and wide receiver Tyneil Cooper are all juniors, and all among the best players in the state.

Morris might be the second best back in the state (behind Central’s Michael Washington), Francis might be the best quarterback, and Cooper is in the group of a handful of receivers at the top.

Get used to seeing them – they’ll all be back.

If you think they’re good now, wait until they have another year of experience under their belts. La Salle is in prime position to repeat, despite not even having won once yet.

It’s a shame, because teams two through six look like they all might be pretty even. Hendricken, Cranston West and East Providence are 3-1, Portsmouth is 2-1, up-and-coming South Kingstown is 1-2 and Barrington is 1-3.

I guess it will make for some interesting games with runner-up ramifications.

La Salle still has West and No. 2 East Providence on the schedule, so I guess a loss is possible. But I’ve seen both those teams play and I don’t think either of them has a chance of beating the Rams.

So while the Hawks have dreams of repeating, and the other teams in the Division I are thinking about just winning one, they can all go ahead and put those hallucinations on hold. No one is going to beat La Salle this year – and probably next.

That’s a grim thought for Hawks fans.

Kevin Pomeroy is the assistant sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 or kevinp@rhodybeat.com.


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