The Bishop Hendricken football team seems to have a knack for winning games against high-octane teams, with its Super Bowl upsets over La Salle as the most high-profile examples.
Friday’s win over Cranston East may have been the most dominant example. The Hawks limited the top per-game scoring team in Division I to just a fourth-quarter touchdown and racked up 475 yards rushing to completely control the ball in a 35-7 victory.
The Hawks are now 5-0 in Division I play.
“I can’t say enough about the effort that the assistant coaches and the players put in this week,” said Hendricken head coach Keith Croft. “It was all hands on deck. We had some fumbles, we had some turnovers early, but we didn’t panic, we didn’t get down. We just kept believing in what we do.”
Cranston East, whom Croft himself dubbed the Division I favorite in the preseason, came into Friday’s game with a 2-1 record and a No. 3 ranking in the Rhode Island Sports Media High School Football Poll. The ’Bolts were averaging nearly 47 points per game in league play, with quarterback Alex Corvese and receivers Marven Beauvais and Marquem Monroe lighting up the scoreboard.
But there would be no shoot-out Friday. The Hawks held East to 48 yards of offense and no points in the first half. In the meantime, they overcame an early turnover to jump in front and were ahead 21-0 by halftime.
Senior running back Remington Blue rushed for 205 yards and two touchdowns, and the Hawks had a nearly 15 minute edge in time of possession.
“I’d be cautious with saying we shut them down – but I think we were able to control the clock and we ran the ball well,” Croft said. “We knew we were going to have to do that and we did.”
The ’Bolts took the ball to start the game but instead of firing up the engines, they turned the ball over on their second play from scrimmage when Corvese couldn’t handle a shotgun snap.
Hendricken gave the ball right back when Blue fumbled on the doorstep of the end zone, but the ’Bolts could do little after they took over. They punted after Matt Duffie broke up a third-down pass.
The Hawks took over near midfield and were on the verge of coming up empty again until a little magic from quarterback Patrick Gill. On a fourth-and-9 at the 33-yard line, Gill rolled left then came back right, avoided a sack and threw back across the middle of the field to Mike Scarcella, who hauled it in for a first down.
“It was designed as a tailback wheel,” Gill said. “I felt pressure coming so I had to roll out to the left, then I came all the way back to the right. I saw Mike Scarcella wide open in the middle of the field and just dumped it off to him.”
Instead of a turnover on downs and a chance for East to get itself going, the Hawks were in business. After two holding penalties – one that negated a touchdown – Blue ripped off a 35-yard run to the 1-yard line. Gill ran a sneak in from there and Robert Campbell’s extra point made it 7-0.
“We had him sacked and he broke out of it,” East head coach Tom Centore said of the fourth down play. “We just didn’t make the play. Normally you make that tackle. Then they go down and score.”
The Hawks forced another punt thanks to a third-down sack by Christian Wesolowski. They quickly threatened to score, but Monroe intercepted a pass to the end zone when he out-jumped Hendricken receiver Lee Moses.
Once again, though, Hendricken kept East from getting into gear. Corvese converted a fourth down to keep the ensuing drive alive but was later sacked by Scarcella. Two incomplete passes later, East was punting again.
“We didn’t capitalize early on some stops,” Centore said. “That would have made a big difference. We had a couple of chances and we didn’t come through when we needed to.”
One play after the punt, the Hawks made the missed opportunities hurt when Blue broke off a 78-yard touchdown run. Campbell’s extra point made it 14-0 with 5:12 left in the first half.
“A lot of holes and he pounded it,” Centore said of Blue. “He’s a good football player. We had him at times, but they got going a little bit.”
The ’Bolts went three-and-out again after the score, with another sack as a key part of it. This one came from Duffie on a third-down cornerback blitz. Whether they were blitzing or just rushing four, pressure was a major factor – and all the sacks seemed to happen in big moments.
“We got pressure on him, but in the first half, we got most of our pressure from the D-line,” Croft said. “That was big. That was one of the things we preached. Some of our guys are more pass-rushers than run-stoppers and tonight it was a big benefit for us.”
The Hawks scored once more before halftime as Blue capped a 46-yard drive with a 7-yard touchdown scamper. East had 20 seconds to work with, but Mitch Lucci intercepted a Corvese pass to end any hopes of a late score. Hendricken went to the break leading 21-0.
In the second half, with the quick-strike East offense looking for a way back into the game, it was the Hawks who hit the gas pedal. On the first play from scrimmage in the second half, fullback Gary Gibbs took a hand-off up the middle and rambled 59 yards for a touchdown. Campbell’s extra point made it 28-0.
From there, Hendricken’s ability to control the ball was even more pronounced. The Hawks threw just one pass in the second half, and East had possession for only 7:16.
“In the second half, we attempted one pass,” Croft said. “That’s what we are. We like to throw the ball, we’ve got athletes, but we firmly believe to win in December, you’ve got to be able to run the ball. That’s what we’re getting to at this point.”
Terrence Gibbs scored the final Hendricken touchdown when he finished off a 71-yard drive with a 3-yard score early in the fourth quarter. East got on the board with 8:50 left on a 39-yard touchdown pass from Corvese to Jimmy Saab but it was much too little, too late.
The Hawks finished with 537 yards of offense, powered by the 475 yards on the ground. Blue’s 205 yards led the way, while Gary Gibbs added 90 yards and Terrence Gibbs chipped in with 85 yards. Gill rushed for 38 yards while completing four of seven passes for 62 yards.
East ran for just 50 yards while Corvese completed 12 of 26 passes for 117 yards, far off his average. Beauvais, the state’s top receiver, caught six passes for 58 yards but was kept out of the end zone for the first time all season. Monroe caught only one pass while rushing for 29 yards.
“The defense played great,” Gill said. “It gives us so much confidence. When we get on the field, we know our defense is going to play great. It allows us to go out there and convert.”
The Hawks will now get ready for another tough match-up in their season-ending gauntlet. They’ll host 3-1 Portsmouth on Friday at 7 p.m. After that, it’s a week off before games against Barrington and La Salle.
“Another big one,” Croft said. “It doesn’t get easier.”