After his team lost to La Salle in its league opener, Hendricken head coach Keith Croft knew how important the next three games would be. Match-ups with South Kingstown, Cranston East and North Kingstown would go a long way in defining the early part of the Hawks’ season.
With two of those games in the books, the definition is shaping up nicely for the Hawks.
A week after an overtime victory over South Kingstown, Hendricken didn’t need any dramatics Friday night as it rolled over East 35-0. Louis Falcone rushed for 146 yards and three touchdowns, and the defense limited the ’Bolts to less than 100 yards of offense. The Hawks improved to 2-1 in league play with the win.
“That La Salle game can take a lot of you,” said Hendricken head coach Keith Croft. “It can take a while to get over it. I’m really proud of the way the kids have bounced back. South Kingstown is a very good football team, and I don’t care what East’s record is – they’re tough. They’re going to win games this year and they’re going to give a lot of teams battles. This was a good win for us.”
The Hawks didn’t race out of the gates on Friday. After recovering an East fumble on the second play of the game, the Hawks turned the ball over on downs. On their next drive, they lost a fumble.
But all it took was one play to swing the momentum.
After forcing a punt on East’s third series, Hendricken took over at its own 40-yard line with 1:40 left in the first quarter. On the first play, Louis Falcone found a gaping hole up the middle, raced into the open field, broke a tackle at the 15 and powered into the end zone for a 60-yard touchdown. Bobby Lineberger’s extra point made it 7-0.
The ’Bolts had a shot to answer, taking over at the 50 after a bad kickoff and moving all the way to the Hendricken 22. But on second-and-16, Hendricken’s Romario Rousseau intercepted a Kyle Tracy pass.
Two plays later, Hendricken quarterback Ryan Brannigan scampered 29 yards to put the ball in East territory, and one play after that, Falcone broke a 30-yard touchdown run.
“He runs really hard and he’s got really good speed in the open field,” Croft said. “The offensive line just came through tonight.”
With 7:36 left in the first half, the Hawks struck again. Brannigan found Laionel Cintron on a quick slant, and Cintron broke two tackles on his way to a 26-yard touchdown. The Hawks went to the break up 21-0 and firmly in control.
And they never lost control.
Hendricken wanted to pound the ball in the second half and did it to perfection behind the line play of Max Heintzelman, William Stewart, Andrew Breting, Joseph Vincent and Nick DeCiantis. Falcone capped a 65-yard drive with a 4-yard touchdown run to start the half. After an East punt, Hendricken orchestrated a methodic, 15-play drive that covered 52 yards and took almost 10 minutes off the clock. Brannigan finished it off with a 1-yard touchdown plunge.
“We told the line at halftime, ‘This is your game,’” Croft said. “We just kept running the ball. That’s what we wanted to do.”
The Hawks finished with 326 yards rushing, led by Falcone’s 146. Brannigan added 102 on just 11 carries, and Jullion Pope chipped in with 52 yards on nine carries. McKinley Berriman had 18 yards. Through the air, Brannigan completed two of six passes for 34 yards.
Hendricken’s ability to control the ball meant East was buried as soon as it got down. The ’Bolts ran only 10 offensive plays in the second half and totaled just 17 yards.
“We don’t have much size up front,” said East head coach Tom Centore. “We’re not a big, physical football team. Hendricken is big and they can run you over. They hurt you. They wear you down at the line of scrimmage.”
For the game, the ’Bolts were limited to 71 yards. They also committed five turnovers.
“The defense is coming along,” Croft said. “We don’t want to compare them to last year’s defense or the year before. They’re not them. I think they’re still trying to find their identity but they’re battling. The kids are working hard.”
That’s been a solid formula so far, and Hendricken hopes it will keep working. The Hawks face winless North Kingstown this week before a bye. After that, they’ll hit the meat of their schedule, with games against East Providence, Portsmouth, Cranston West and Barrington.
“There’s no easy ones this year in Division I,” Croft said. “North Kingstown is a team that’s much-improved and they’re going to give you a battle. No off-weeks.”