As soon as it started thinking about 2011, the Bishop Hendricken football team knew it would be in for a challenge. Its run to the Super Bowl championship in 2010 was powered in large part by seniors. Replacing them wouldn’t be easy.
But the Hawks have looked at it as a challenge to be met, not a situation to dwell on.
“It was more of a challenge to see if we could overcome losing all of our seniors,” said current senior running back Louis Falcone. “We knew we had to step up.”
All the Hawks have taken the challenge to heart, and you could label Falcone as the poster boy thus far. In last Friday’s 51-12 non-league win over St. Raphael, the spotlight was on Falcone, and he responded by running for three touchdowns.
The touchdown runs were some of his first varsity carries – that’s the way it goes for the Hawks this year – but the inexperience certainly didn’t show.
“We’ve been working hard all year,” Falcone said. “We lost a lot of seniors. Coming into this year, we knew we had a decent team, but we had to prove ourselves. Not a lot of the team had seen varsity time.”
Falcone was part of that group. He played some on defense and special teams last year, but while he was listed as a running back/safety on last season’s roster, time on the offensive side of the ball was hard to come by.
Falcone didn’t seem to mind, though. He was doing what he was asked on a championship team, and that was good enough for him.
“I was just focused on my assignments,” he said.
This year, Falcone and junior Jarrid Witherspoon were penciled as the Hawks’ new feature backs. Witherspoon joined Falcone in playing well during the opener. New quarterback Ryan Brannigan also ran well.
Falcone didn’t necessarily see this season as his big chance. He worked hard, just like last year, and stayed focused. His speed gives him the potential to be a standout this season, but he’s taking it one game at a time.
“I was just trying not to worry about it too much,” he said. “I just wanted to work, get our practice in and have everybody on the same page. I’m just focusing on winning.”
The Hawks are poised to do that. While a rebuilding year seemed like a possibility, the win over the Saints was a sign that the Hawks might be a little more dangerous.
Falcone and the rest of the Hawk runners have a good idea why.
“Our o-line is our biggest strength this year,” Falcone said.
If Falcone and company can continue to break out, that strong offensive line could pave the way for another big season.
But the Hawks won’t get ahead of themselves. As impressive as their first game was, it was just a beginning.
“We’re starting, but we still have to get better,” Falcone said. “We’re a young team and we have to keep working hard.”
This Friday, the Hawks get a serious test. They’ll open league play with longtime rival La Salle. In the most recent Rhode Island Sports Media Poll, the Hawks are the No. 1 team while La Salle is ranked second.
Though many of the Hawks haven’t been on a big stage like the one they’ll take Friday night, they’re determined to be ready.
Just like they’ve been all along.
“We feel like we can win, but we know they’re a good team,” Falcone said. “We just really need to come out and play our game.”