The Hendricken football team had easily won its first two games of the season, but entering Friday night’s game at East Providence, the Hawks weren’t satisfied with how they had been starting those games on the offensive end
In a 38-6 win over St. Raphael in week one, Hendricken had just nine points at the half. Against South Kingstown the following week, the score was tied 0-0 after two quarters before the Hawks went on to win 24-0.
Against the Townies, Hendricken was determined to get out in front early.
The Hawks lost a fumble in East Providence territory on their first drive but scored touchdowns on their next five possessions. By halftime, Hendricken held a commanding 35-6 lead, and it coasted from there to a 42-13 victory.
Hendricken improved to 3-0 overall and is one of only three 2-0 teams in Division I, along with La Salle and Cranston East. East Providence dropped to 0-3 overall and 0-2 in D-I.
“It was very important [to win this game],” Hendricken quarterback Patrick Gill said. “We have not been having good first halves. Coming in here we wanted to have a good first half, and we did. That was very important.”
It was Gill who spearheaded the Hawks’ offensive outburst, as he threw touchdown passes on three consecutive drives to three different players, putting Hendricken out in front 21-0.
Gill, in his first year under center for the varsity, missed on three of his first five passes, and he completed only three passes on the day. But when he did connect with his receivers, the results were more than enough to make up for a few incompletions.
“Gill obviously has gotten better each week,” Croft said. “He’s just got to keep working.”
East Providence went three-and-out on five of its first six possessions, and it lost a fumble on the one exception. That gave Hendricken a huge edge in time of possession and starting field position, and the Hawks didn’t waste it.
Five different players got into the end zone, as Hendricken threw for the three touchdowns and ran for two more. It racked up 310 yards on the ground and 70 through the air for 380 total yards of offense, even with many of its starters out of the game for large chunks of the second half because the game was already in hand.
In the kicking game, Bobby Lineberger was perfect, connecting on six extra points.
“It’s a similar blueprint to what we’ve had the last few years,” Croft said. “We really think we can spread the ball around. We’ve got a lot of depth this year, and a lot of sophomores who are getting better from week to week.”
Hendricken took a 7-0 lead with 4:41 to play in the first quarter when Gill found Jarrid Witherspoon on a streak out of the left slot for a 30-yard touchdown.
Following an East Providence punt, the Hawks struck again through the air on a 33-yard wheel pass from Gill to Michael Scarcella up the left sideline, extending the score to 14-0 with just over two minutes left in the first.
The Hawks lost a fumble on an East Providence punt soon after the touchdown, but the defense held strong and again Hendricken took over after yet another Townies’ punt. After runs of 11 and 15 yards by Gill, he found Mitch Lucci in the end zone on a third-and-goal play from the 6-yard-line, upping the lead to 21-0.
“I think [offensive coordinator Frank] Pantaleo just saw some match-ups,” Croft said. “He saw some match-ups that he liked. I think we feel like we’ve got enough guys offensively where we can spread some guys out and kind of open the field out a little bit.”
Hendricken extended its lead to 28-0 with a touchdown on its fourth consecutive possession, as it took over at its own 45-yard-line after a fifth East Providence punt and needed just four plays to find the end zone. An incompletion followed by a 21-yard run by Gill moved the ball into Townies’ territory, and Power Kanga finished the drive with runs off 2 and 12 yards, the second of which was an easy touchdown over the right side.
“Our offensive line’s been good,” Croft said. “They took some steps today. I think they’ve just got to jell together.”
East Providence put together its best drive of the game on its next possession, as it went 74 yards to finally get on the board. Quarterback Jashaun Bennett completed three passes to Darian Johnson, including a 31-yarder and an 11-yard pass on first-and-10 that got East Providence into the end zone. The extra point was blocked, making the score 28-6.
Taking over with 1:12 left to play at their own 20, the Hawks wasted no time getting those points back. Remmington Blue broke a 35-yard run to start the drive, and two plays later Kanga broke through the left side for a 43-yard touchdown run, making it 35-6 at halftime.
“A lot of times we tell them this drive is on them, the offensive line,” Croft said. “We really want them to get hungry and feed off the energy and just jam the ball.”
The second half was not as smooth for the Hawks, but it didn’t matter much with the game already under control. Second-string quarterback John Toppa scored the team’s final points with a 1-yard plunge in the middle of the fourth quarter.
East Providence’s second touchdown of the game came with 1:42 remaining. Quarterback John Costa found Johnson on the right side for a 24-yard hook-up. The extra point by Corey Resendes was good, rounding out the scoring.
Kanga led the Hawks on the ground with 137 yards, while Blue added 81. Gill had 47 rushing yards and 70 passing yards, giving him 117 all-purpose yards on the night.
For the Townies, Bennett was the team’s leading rusher with 72 yards. He also threw for 82 yards. Johnson caught six balls for 72 yards and two touchdowns.
Hendricken will be back at home this weekend, as it takes on Tolman on Friday at 7 p.m.
The Tigers are coming off a 42-20 loss to La Salle last week.
“I feel good. Like I told the kids going in from last week, I thought we had to cut down the penalties,” Croft said. “We definitely did that tonight. We took a positive step.”
East Providence will play at 1-1 Barrington on Friday, also at 7 p.m.