Cranston West gave Hendricken all it could handle on Friday night, tying the game just prior to halftime, before a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns allowed the Hawks to escape with a hard-fought, 27-14 victory.
West quarterback Nick Dionizio found Evan Degaitas down the left sideline with just six seconds remaining in the first half, and senior running back Will Such rushed in the 2-point conversion to knot the game at 14 and give the Falcons the momentum heading into the break.
In the third quarter, neither team really seized their opportunities. But, a key fumble by the West offense near the end of the third quarter set up a Tom Comella 3-yard touchdown keeper on the first play of the fourth quarter, the eventual game-winning score, to put the Hawks ahead for good on their home turf. Hendricken sophomore Angel Sanchez then pushed the lead to 27-14 with an insurance touchdown on a 22-yard rush to the end zone to seal the win.
After a decent defensive display in the first half, Hendricken was much stronger on the defensive side of the football in the second half. The Hawks allowed Such to run for 83 yards in the first half, before limiting the standout rusher to just five yards on the ground over the final two quarters.
Hendricken head coach Keith Croft came away thinking his team played well, but was very impressed with Cranston West’s ability, particularly on offense.
“That’s a really good football team,” Croft said of West. “They’re tough to play because they have the quarterback, the running back and a couple of good receivers. They’re tough kids and they have some speed. I’m not going to say my kids didn’t play good because I think they played good. I just think West is a really good team.”
West head coach Steve Stoehr was pleased with his team’s effort as well, but pointed out that fumble near the end of the third quarter as a turning point in the game.
“That bad snap thrown over the quarterback’s head was a momentum killer,” Stoehr said. “Other than that, the kids played hard. We’re a relatively young team and we were playing with them. We’ll get better.”
The Hawks started strong with the first score of the game.
The West defense forced the Hawks into a fourth-and-10 situation from the Falcons’ 34-yard line, but Hendricken was able to convert. Comella, Hendricken’s sophomore signal caller, found an open Luke Swift over the middle, and he was able to sprint into the end zone to give the Hawks a 6-0 advantage.
However, West would answer.
Such got loose for a 33-yard scamper to put West deep in Hendricken territory, before Such capped the long drive with a 4-yard run to tie the game at 6 with 2:53 remaining in the first quarter.
It only took Hendricken one minute, 32 seconds to get back in the end zone, though, thanks to a 56-yard touchdown run from junior running back Israel Emmanuel. Comella then completed a pass to Angel Santana to convert the 2-point conversion, pushing the Hawks back in front, 14-6.
Impressive defensive play from both teams highlighted much of the second quarter.
Cam Alves recorded his first of two interceptions in the game midway through the second frame.
And the Hendricken defense forced a turnover on downs at its own 35 with just 37 seconds remaining in the first half.
But, Luke Traversie intercepted a Comella pass intended for a Hendricken receiver down the left sideline and returned it to the Hawks’ 36-yard line with 19 seconds remaining.
Two plays later, a Dionizio to Degaitas 36-yard strike tied the score just before halftime.
“The way that first half ended, it was so chaotic, we lost sight of the fact that we were OK,” Croft said. “We were moving the ball.”
The third quarter was largely a field position battle between the two teams, with neither team being able to manufacture much offense.
The Hawks worked their way into the red zone midway through the third quarter, but Alves would intercept another pass just shy of the end zone to squash a scoring chance for Hendricken.
Near the end of the third quarter, Dionizio connected with Alves for a big 22-yard gain on third-and-16 to extend West’s drive. But, a mishap on a snap shortly after allowed Hendricken’s Xavier Truss to recover the ball at West’s 15-yard line.
That resulted in Comella’s rushing touchdown to start the fourth quarter to make it 20-14, and Sanchez would tack on Hendricken’s final score just south of six minutes later to increase the lead to 27-14.
West tried to cut into its deficit late, but a Dionizio pass to the end zone was intercepted by Andre De Los Santos to secure Hendricken’s win.
Other than that interception, Dionizio was flawless under center for West, completing 11 passes for 155 yards and a touchdown.
Conversely, West cut down Hendricken’s game plan through the air, as Comella completed just three passes and threw three interceptions. But, he did account for two touchdowns, one passing and one rushing.
“You’re going to get that with a sophomore,” Croft said of Comella. “He can easily sit there and say he’d like two or three of those back. But, we have to believe in him. He’s been big for us all year. He made some mistakes, but he’ll clean them up. We have confidence in him.”
Despite Friday night’s game being the only scheduled meeting between Hendricken and West this season, Stoehr is confident that his team will see the Hawks again come playoff time.
“We’ll see them again,” Stoehr said of Hendricken.
West (2-1) will look to bounce back with a win when it hosts East Providence (2-2) at Cranston Stadium on Saturday at 2 p.m.
Hendricken is now 4-0 and has a bye this week.