Sunday’s Super Bowl ended with another Hendricken championship, its fourth in a row and the 12th in program history. This one, though, was different.
The Hawks have never had a title-clinching win like this before, and in recent memory they haven’t had many wins of any sort that looked like this.
Hendricken won a shootout.
That might be the norm for some programs, but not the Hawks. In building the state’s marquee high school football program, they’ve leaned on dominant defense and a ball-control oriented offensive attack.
That wasn’t the story in Hendricken’s 45-34 victory over Cranston East. Without a doubt, the offense was the story.
“To do what we did today – and seeing that it’s a high-powered offense on the other side – our defense did what it did, but to see our offense step up the way it did to put the points up to help us win the game, I can’t even explain it,” Hendricken offensive coordinator Frank Pantaleo said. “I’m just so happy.”
Heading into Sunday’s game, it was the East offense that had made headlines. With record-setters at quarterback and wide receiver and an attack that was geared around throwing the ball and breaking big pass plays, the ’Bolts scored the most points in Division I and were clicking on all cylinders heading into the Super Bowl.
In East’s semifinal victory over Barrington, it scored 46 points against a team that allowed only 88 in eight Division I regular season games.
Against Hendricken, the ’Bolts offense continued to click. They scored five touchdowns, racked up 396 total yards and completed 17 passes.
The Hawks’ offense was better. It had 401 total yards, 365 of which came on the ground.
“They put up a lot of points and we know that, but our offense is just as good,” said junior Lee Moses, who accounted for two of Hendricken’s touchdowns and ran for 92 yards on just three carries. “We came out today and really wanted to prove that.”
The numbers show just how exceptional – and unusual – Hendricken’s offense was on a day when it had to be in order to outscore East and claim another championship.
The 45 points that the Hawks scored were the most they’ve scored against a Division I opponent – including the postseason – in five years, since a 48-0 victory over North Kingstown in 2009.
They haven’t given up at least 34 points and won a game since the 2010 Division I semifinals against East Providence, and they’ve only given up at least 34 points twice in the last five seasons, excluding this game.
When the ’Bolts reached that 34-point number this time, it still wasn’t enough. Hendricken’s offense – which actually scored the second-most points in D-I this season – made sure of that.
“Defense wins championships and our job is to try to keep their job off the field, and that’s ball control and trying to grind it out with Remy and some other backs,” Pantaleo said. “But it went another route where it became a high-scoring game. Offensively we think we’re going to get three or four yards a pop, and we’ve got Remy Blue and Lee Moses and Gary Gibbs and Pat Gill ripping yards. It turned out to be a shootout.”
Hendricken has played in 17 Super Bowls, and has never even approached the offensive output that it had on Sunday. The most points it had ever scored before the 45-point outburst was 26, which it did three times.
The Hawks scored 26 points in the second half Sunday.
The last two seasons prior to this one, both of which ended in Super Bowl victories over La Salle, Hendricken combined for 43 points.
“I feel that everybody put our offense down,” said quarterback Patrick Gill. “We wanted to prove ourselves. We came out today and showed everybody what our offense is made of.”
Discounting the final possession of the first half, when time ran out, and the final possession of the second half where Hendricken took a knee, the Hawks scored seven touchdowns on nine possessions. They punted only once. They also moved the ball down to the 1-yard line on an eighth possession, but ended up losing a fumble.
That was about the only mistake Hendricken’s offense made all game. Gill was efficient passing the ball in the first half, going 3-for-4 for 36 yards, but the Hawks kept the ball exclusively on the ground in the second half. They ran for 221 yards after halftime, controlling the clock as usual but – more importantly – scoring more often than the best offense in the state.
Hendricken got creative with its runs, too. While Remington Blue led the way with 23 carries for 201 yards, receivers Moses, Mike Scarcella and Mitch Lucci combined for five runs in the second half on jet sweeps, all but one of which were effective. Moses had runs of 52 and 32 yards and added an 8-yard touchdown.
“Most people know that Cranston East goes man and they pack the box,” Pantaleo said. “I figured by halftime they would start to adjust to what we were doing with Remy, so we sucked them in a little bit. We moved Lee and Scarcella to the slots and starting working some jets. You’re going to keep going with it until they stop it, and they didn’t stop it.”
The result was an offense that looked unstoppable. Hendricken’s 45-point total was the second-most in a Division I Super Bowl, and the 79 points the two teams combined for was the most ever.
The Hawks had seven plays of 25 yards or more.
“East’s offense, obviously we know how explosive they are, and our offense, when we put it together and spread it around like we did, we can play,” Hendricken head coach Keith Croft said.
Over the past four seasons, Hendricken has had more success than any team in Rhode Island, winning a combined 43 games.
For the most part, the first 42 of those were accomplished using a similar recipe.
Number 43 was different. This one belonged to the offense.