As the third quarter was drawing to a close Friday night, the top-ranked Bishop Hendricken football team was in its toughest battle of the season.
By the time the fourth quarter opened, the Hawks were well on their way to another victory.
Nursing just a three-point lead over Cranston West with 28 seconds remaining in the third, Hendricken got the ball to junior wide receiver Lee Moses on a screen to the left side, and Moses did the rest, turning on the jets for a game-changing 57-yard touchdown. That put Hendricken up by nine, and the team scored on its next two possessions as well to clinch a 33-10 win over the Falcons.
The Hawks stayed unbeaten at 5-0 and are atop Division I at 4-0. West fell to 1-4 overall and 0-4 in D-I.
Hendricken quarterback Patrick Gill’s pass to Moses and the touchdown that came with it kept the two teams going in opposite directions in the standings.
“We know that he can break it from any point on the field,” Hendricken head coach Keith Croft said of Moses. “But, quite honestly, we just weren’t having a lot of success. We’ve got to try to get the ball to him out in space, but sometimes it’s easier said than done.”
The score was Moses’ fourth of the year, and his third of over 50 yards.
West had just scored a touchdown on its previous drive – a 10-yard fourth-down pass from Steven Furtado to Jimmy Diehl – to get within 13-10, and the momentum was clearly swinging toward the Falcons. An upset was in the making.
Then it wasn’t.
“We had a couple young kids come inside when they were supposed to be out there,” West head coach Steve Stoehr said. “They’re kids, they make mistakes. It’s frustrating to see on the field. You feel for them. They’re frustrated.”
It was still a nine-point game, but Hendricken didn’t let West off the ropes. Including the Moses touchdown, the Hawks scored on four consecutive possessions.
“We’re always confident,” Hendricken linebacker Tom St. Pierre said. “We know our offense, they may not start off well, but they’ll put up points.”
When the Falcons got the ball back trailing 19-10, the Hawks’ defense clamped down. West didn’t gain a single yard and went three-and-out.
Hendricken took over on its own 40-yard line following a punt, and immediately started moving the ball when Gill ran for 15 yards on second down, putting the Hawks in West territory.
Remington Blue, who led all rushers with 116 yards, took off for 30 yards on the next play, and Gill ran it into the end zone from 16 yards out on the next one. Robert Campbell’s extra point made it 26-10.
“They always play us tough,” Croft said of West. “We knew this was a huge game for them. For them to have playoff aspirations, they were going to have to put their best foot forward tonight. For three-quarters of the game, they played like a playoff team.”
The Hawks put the game on ice shortly afterwards. The Falcons turned the ball over on downs after gaining just nine yards on their next possession, and Hendricken needed just two plays to find the end zone once again. Blue scampered in from 35 yards out, and the extra point gave the Hawks a 33-10 lead and no more concerns about an upset.
“They’re a good team,” Stoehr said of Hendricken. “I told the kids, I thought we played hard for about three-and-a-half quarters. We need to play four.”
The Hawks got off to a near-perfect start, holding West to a three-and-out and then driving 69 yards in just four plays, with Blue capping the drive on a 42-yard touchdown run. Just 3:31 into the game, Hendricken was up 7-0.
But from there, the Falcons clamped down and closed the gap. They held the Hawks to a turnover on downs and three punts on their next four possessions. West got on the board with 3:21 to go before the half when Michael Foley kicked a 25-yard field goal after a drive stalled at the 7-yard line.
Hendricken only led 7-3 at the break.
“We were pretty confident,” St. Pierre said. “We knew that if we did what we had to do, did our assignments, that we’d be able to come back out strong.”
The Hawks went three-and-out on their first series of the second half but took a 13-3 lead on the next one. Hendricken took over in West territory after a short punt and converted the touchdown on an 8-yard Garry Gibbs run.
West, though, responded. It marched 79 yard in eight plays, finishing one of its best drives of the season with the scoring pass to Diehl.
“That game was really in doubt up until maybe five or six minutes to go,” Croft said. “I can sit here all day and say, ‘We should have done this, we should have done that,’ but the credit is on Cranston West. They played their hearts out tonight. They played a great game.”
Moses scored on the next drive, however, and Hendricken was in business from there.
Moses led all receivers with three catches for 86 yards, while Mitch Lucci added three for 48. Gill threw for a 156 yards and a touchdown on 7-for-15 passing. Blue was the team’s leading rusher with 116 yards, while Gill had 56 and Gibbs had 30.
For West, Bam Hernandez led the way with 68 yards on the ground, and Raekwon Kisilywicz added 30. Kisilywicz is the team’s leading rusher, but he was injured in the second quarter and didn’t return.
“We can’t score,” Stoehr said. “Raekwon going out really hurt us.”
Furtado completed 7-of-11 passes for 91 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Olusayo Banjo hauled in four passes for 74 yards.
The Falcons – who have now played the top four teams in the D-I standings through four weeks – will try to get into the win column next week against 1-2 South Kingstown, while Hendricken will begin the meat of its schedule.
The Hawks are traveling to Cranston Stadium to take on Cranston East on Friday at 7 p.m. The Thunderbolts are 2-1 in D-I, but are considered one of the top contenders for the state title. Last season, Hendricken eliminated East in the state semifinals.
East is led by quarterback Alex Corvese and wide receivers Marven Beauvais and Marquem Monroe.
“We’ve got to get a lot better,” Croft said. “I told the kids that. I don’t think there’s any question right now that Cranston East has the best offense in the state. I don’t think any coach would argue that. They’ve got two dynamic playmakers and one of the best quarterbacks in the state. We have to bring our ‘A’ game defensively. Are we up to the task? I hope so. We’ll find out Friday night.”
After the East game, Hendricken will have three more big games. It still has to play Portsmouth, Barrington and La Salle.