It was just another boring afternoon at Cranston Stadium. A few thousand people, Hendricken winning a thrilling championship game over Cranston East with dynamic performances all over the field, history made as the Hawks raised the trophy for a fourth consecutive year.
You know, just the usual.
If I really meant that – no tongue in cheek – you’d think I was crazy, but it’s the kind of sentiment that’s always swirling in the wind whenever a Hawk gets a trophy. Of course they win, people say. It’s easy for them.
I get it. The Hawks have advantages.
But that only gets you so far. It doesn’t get you four consecutive championships. For a 15-year stretch that ended not too long ago, it didn’t even get the Hawks one championship.
To scoff at any championship feat – and especially this one – diminishes one heck of an accomplishment.
Hendricken’s title streak began when another streak was paramount. The seniors that fueled the 2010 championship run came into the program when the Hawks were suffering their second consecutive Super Bowl loss, when you had to wonder if Hendricken football’s championship drought would ever end. The same program that seems charmed now – always poised, always delivering in big games – seemed snake-bit then.
The Hawks won a title in 1996, their third in a row, then made three more Super Bowls in the next three years. They lost all of them, two to East Providence and one to Portsmouth.
For six years, Hendricken players found themselves in the stands on the final day of the football season. They finally got back to the title game in 2006 but lost to East Providence, the first of two straight defeats. And just when it seemed like the Hawks were getting close, they went 3-5 in 2008. The next year, they regrouped but lost in the title game to Barrington.
The 2010 team carried the weight of those history books on its shoulders. It’s hard to believe now, just four years later, that a Hendricken team could feel that kind of burden, but that’s the way it was. It’s a reminder that it’s not so easy, that Hendricken never had the luxury of taking a title for granted.
And then there were the actual Super Bowls, dramatic games year after year. For that first title, the Hawks had to go through a talented Portsmouth team. They trailed at halftime. Eventually they found a way, winning 20-17. It was their second consecutive three-point victory, having slipped past East Providence 38-35 in the semifinals. The Hawks were finally the champs – by the skin of their teeth.
In 2011 and 2012, they weren’t supposed to win. La Salle was the team in position to elicit the ho-hums. The Rams went undefeated both years, only to lose to Hendricken by a total of nine points in the two Super Bowls.
This year, the Hawks looked the part of a favorite but showed they were human in a loss to Barrington and a narrow victory over La Salle. Cranston East gave them a tremendous game on Sunday, making big play after big play, before the Hawks ultimately had a little too much.
History was made, and that too, is far from a footnote. Rhode Island has been playing football championship games since 1972. On four separate occasions, teams won three in a row – and not a one hit four. Rogers did it twice but didn’t get to the final game in either fourth try. Hendricken and Portsmouth did it once each and lost in the title game in year four.
Ask those teams if winning four championships is easy.
It’s a monumental task. Sure, Hendricken has a leg up on teams around the state – but the Hawks still had to do the rest.
It’s a testament to hard work, like the kind that allowed an undersized running back to turn himself into a two-time Super Bowl MVP. It’s a testament to role players who bide their time and become stars when given a chance, to linemen who pave the way, to a defense that prides itself on a shut-down identity. It’s a testament to coaches who work as hard as anybody in the state.
It’s a testament to the Hawks.
I don’t think so.
William Geoghegan is the sports editor at the Warwick Beacon. He can be reached at 732-3100 and email@example.com.