At Tuesday night’s Hendricken-South Kingstown playoff game, I learned a few things:
1. The column I wrote about La Salle already having won the state title back in October did not go over well with a lot of people around Hawk Country.
2. The column I wrote about La Salle already having won the state title back in October could have been a little bit premature.
While dodging barbs from everybody on the Hendricken sideline about how I had, literally, written the team off, I saw the Hawks put on a dominating display – led by a confident, opportunistic defense – that made me re-evaluate what I originally said.
La Salle is still the unquestioned favorite. I’m not willing to budge on that point. They’ve dominated every team they’ve played in Rhode Island, including Hendricken, and they’ve shown no signs, at any point, of slowing down.
But I am willing to concede one big thing – they’re not guaranteed to win it all, not with the way Hendricken is playing all of a sudden.
The second-seeded Hawks beat third-seeded South Kingstown 42-14 on Tuesday in what served as the biggest statement any team, statewide, has made this season. Hendricken has burst onto the elite stage, and they’re good enough now to give La Salle a run for its money.
Just one month ago, I didn’t, in a million years, think Hendricken would be in this position with this much confidence riding this much momentum. The Hawks have won five straight games overall and are head-and-shoulders above every other team but La Salle.
When the clock strikes noon on Saturday and the Super Bowl gets underway, the two best teams will be on the field, and it won’t be a mismatch. How in the name of Ron Mosca did we get here?
Realistically, was there any way to think that Hendricken could be in this spot? It graduated nearly every key contributor off last year’s Super Bowl championship team, and it got stomped by a La Salle team that looked unbeatable and by East Providence in the first five weeks of the regular season.
That’s not the traditional pedigree of a team one game away from its second consecutive title. But regardless, here they are.
The Hawks have played the “Nobody Believed in Us” card throughout the season, preferring to be the underdog while they surprise their way to the top.
It was a logical motivational tactic, because nobody had to really stir anything up. There was no fabricating what was being said around the state. Legitimately, nobody believed in them.
There was not a shred of evidence out there as to why anyone would believe in them. It would have been like seeing David and Goliath at a weigh-in and saying, “I think David’s got a shot.”
It wouldn’t have made sense. Picking Hendricken to go to the Super Bowl this year – and to have a chance against a La Salle team that everybody knew was going to be dominant – would have been indefensible.
Or brilliant, I guess.
When I wrote that column in October, I thought I took everything into account. I looked at every other team in Division I, and I stacked them up against La Salle. Nobody even came close.
What I failed to do, though, was account for the unaccountable. I didn’t account for the idea that a team could come together during the season and improve at such a dramatic rate that it literally becomes an entirely different team than it was when the year began.
I didn’t account for the binding factor of having nobody, outside of their own locker room, believe in a team, especially when the team in that locker room is more talented and more well-coached than anybody knew.
I was wrong. It pains me to go back on my word, but the Division I title hasn’t been decided yet. It’ll be decided on Saturday, between the two teams who have separated themselves convincingly from the rest of the state.
One of those teams separated itself before the season began. The other one got there; it just took a little bit longer to spread its wings.
Now, nothing is guaranteed.
Kevin Pomeroy is the Assistant Sports Editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can reached a 732-3100 and firstname.lastname@example.org.