For the third year in a row, the Bishop Hendricken football team had a playoff game looming as it prepared for its annual Thanksgiving match-up with Toll Gate
Once again, that didn’t stop the Hawks from taking care of business on the holiday.
Hendricken scored early and often on Thursday morning at Toll Gate, jumping out to a 13-0 first-quarter lead. It added three more touchdowns and held Toll Gate in check the rest of the way en route to a 31-0 victory. It’s their 20th consecutive victory in the series and their second straight shutout.
“We went in and did what we needed to do,” said Hendricken head coach Keith Croft. “We knew Toll Gate was going to come out and play hard, and they did. They played hard the whole game. I give the kids and the coaching staff over there a lot of credit.”
Hendricken again came in as the favorite. The Hawks went 6-2 in league play and earned the No. 2 seed for the Division I playoffs. Toll Gate, meanwhile, struggled to an 0-7 record in D-II.
With the Hawks again scheduled for a Tuesday playoff game, the Titans were hoping they could catch them napping. Last year, Toll Gate came out hot and trailed by just a touchdown at halftime.
This time, though, the Hawks were the ones getting off to the quick start.
Quarterback Ryan Brannigan threw a pair of touchdown passes in the first quarter, hitting Laionel Cintron from 27 yards out and Mitch Lucci from 37 yards away, to put the Hawks up 13-0.
It was exactly what the Hawks were hoping for.
“Anytime you’re in a rivalry game, you always hope things go your way early,” Croft said. “We came out strong and we were able to put some points on the board.”
Toll Gate’s defense hung tough at times, but as was the case all season, the Titans were vulnerable to the big play.
“We were hanging with them defensively but then they beat us on a couple of big plays,” said Toll Gate coach Matt Mancuso. “Unfortunately, that’s kind of been our M.O. this year. We didn’t let teams drive on us that much, but we gave up a lot of big plays. One mental breakdown can do that.”
The Hawks went up 19-0 in the second quarter on another big play, this one a 48-yard scamper by Brannigan. In the second half, the Hawks got a 20-yard touchdown by Remmington Blue and an 80-yard kickoff return for a score from Aaron Webb.
“They just have too many athletes for us,” Mancuso said. “Even when their second and third backs came in, those guys were just as good.”
The Titans had some success on offense, with Derick Durand running well. Mitch Howkins and Dave Babcock both saw time at the quarterback spot and also did some damage. Derryck Anderson was a standout on defense.
“We definitely put the effort in the whole way,” Mancuso said. “We never quit.”
In the end, though, the Hawks just had too much. It was the 12th shutout in the series by the Hawks, who have out-scored Toll Gate 76-6 in the last three Thanksgiving games. That came after Hendricken won by just three points in 2007.
“We talked a lot all week about the tradition, and how well we’ve played in this game the last couple of years,” Croft said. “A lot of alumni come back and it’s a big crowd. We really wanted to come out and have a positive showing, and I think the kids were proud to do that.”
Hendricken will now turn its attention to the semifinal match-up with No. 3 South Kingstown. Toll Gate heads home but has some positives to build on for the future.
“I think it was a learning experience,” Mancuso said. “We had a lot of young players and they got some varsity time, so that’s big. The thing we take as a positive is that those guys are going to be ready for next year. This year, we didn’t have a lot of people who had taken varsity snaps. Next year, we won’t have that problem.”