For much of the Rhode Island High School football world, Bishop Hendricken’s dominance might be getting old. But love ‘em or hate ‘em, you’ve got to say this about the Hawks: they sure can deliver a championship game classic.
With 2013 Super Bowl tickets punched for Hendricken and Cranston East, we may be in for more. It’s hard to pick against the Hawks on the first weekend of December, and it’s even harder to pick a blowout.
In 2010, they beat a gritty, talented Portsmouth team 20-17 for the program’s first title since 1995. In 2011, they knocked off unbeaten La Salle 17-14 in shocking fashion. In 2012, they did it again, in an even bigger surprise, winning 26-20. That’s three Super Bowl titles by 12 points, and each game has been fantastic – drama, storylines, heroes, wild finishes.
Sign me up for more.
Yes, Hendricken beat Cranston East 35-7 in an October regular-season meeting. But bank on that one at your own peril. The ’Bolts are a different team. The Hawks have looked more human.
There’s reason to believe the rematch will be different.
Start with East. They were firmly on the skids when they played Hendricken, struggling on defense and fighting through some uncharacteristic hiccups on offense. The loss to the Hawks was their worst game of the year.
They lost one more game, to Portsmouth, and were in real danger of missing the playoffs. They have surged since then, knocking off La Salle to start a four-game winning streak.
It continued in dominant fashion Tuesday night. The ’Bolts went on the road to face top-seeded Barrington, and flipped the script on a 41-37 regular-season loss. Their defense delivered its best performance of the season. The offense clicked. The scoreboard lit up – 46-13 East.
The blowout was the strongest proof yet that East is not the same team that struggled. Rather, it’s the team many expected to see when the ’Bolts were ranked second behind Hendricken in the preseason Rhode Island Sports Media poll.
Now the ’Bolts get another rematch. This one may not be so easy to turn around. East’s offense is a nightmare match-up for Barrington’s defense, but that’s not the case for Hendricken, whose secondary may be the only one in the state that can match up with East. On the other side, Remington Blue and company were a nightmare for East in the regular season, rushing for nearly 500 yards.
But you get the feeling that this East team is in the midst of something special. At the beginning of the year, the expectations hung over them. When the struggles started, it looked like they might collapse under the weight. But they went into the fire and came out the other side, tougher and stronger. They’re writing their own storyline – an urban school that was in D-II until four years ago, playing in front of a home crowd, against a team they haven’t beaten since they moved to D-I. It’s got the makings of the kind of upset Hendricken has pulled the last two years.
The Hawks will be fully aware of that – and they’ve got stories of their own. Chief among them is the chance to make history. No team has won four consecutive Rhode Island Super Bowls. With a win Sunday, Hendricken’s dynasty would become Rhode Island’s greatest dynasty.
As I write this, we’re getting ready to record our Football Focus Podcast. I will soon be required to make a prediction. It’s a tough call.
But I think I know one thing – it’s going to be a great game.
William Geoghegan is the sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.