Hawks should handle Patriots this Friday

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Bishop Hendricken is the only Warwick team in the postseason this year as its bid for a seventh consecutive Super Bowl title continues.

The Hawks mangled Barrington, 41-0, in their playoff opener on Friday night, removing most of their starters before the halftime horn sounded. The impending challenge this week will be tougher, but Hendricken should be in line to compete for a state title at Cranston Stadium once again.

The boys in green and gold welcome Portsmouth to town on Friday night for a rematch with the Patriots. Their first meeting isn’t fondly remembered by the residents of Aquidneck Island. The Hawks started fast and didn’t stop, reaching the 50-point mark by the third quarter during a 54-14 victory.

This has been Hendricken’s M.O. all season. The Hawks have only had to play their starters for a full 48 minutes on one occasion, during their 27-14 win over La Salle, and against almost any other opponent it has the potential to get ugly.

Having seen Portsmouth on Friday against East, I can tell you that it’s a fun team to watch. Quarterback/kicker/wide receiver/magician Sean Coyne is Portsmouth’s engine and he can do just about anything. He caught a touchdown pass against the ’Bolts and ran for two as well. Earlier this year, he drilled a state-record 58-yard field goal. He is one of the most dynamic players in the state without question.

The only issue is that Portsmouth would need five or six Coynes to pull off this upset. This is one of the best Hendricken teams the city has seen in a while. Quarterback Chris Hindle is committed to Bryant and is perhaps the best passer in the state. Michigan-bound defensive end Kwity Paye, who won the fan vote Tuesday for a spot in the Under Armour All-America Game, hasn’t played since Nov. 4. A player of his caliber has to be itching to get back on the turf.

Then there are Hendricken’s unsung heroes. Wide receiver/defensive back Andrew Hopgood has arguably been the team’s MVP this season, coming up clutch with a pick-six against Portsmouth and another at Cranston West. Linebacker Sam Hill is the heartbeat of the defense, taking control after Paye left the La Salle game with a concussion. Defensive end Xavier Truss, a sophomore who stands at 6-foot-7, 285 pounds, is the wave of Hendricken’s defensive future already.

You probably don’t need these glowing reflections to tell you how talented Hendricken is. There’s a reason, after all, that it has been the indisputable powerhouse for this entire decade thus far. A chameleon like Coyne, or a running back like East’s Malik Gavek, only come around once every few years. Hendricken seems to have at least three or four players like that every season.

There will be a time when the Hawks are no longer on top of Rhode Island high school football. Their star will fade at some point, giving way to another team or a string of different champions, but that time is not here yet.

This column could take up an entire page if I listed the entire cast of characters Hendricken uses on a weekly basis. It just employs too many weapons on each side of the ball, including a solid special teams unit, that has proved immensely difficult to shut down for four quarters.

Portsmouth can keep this close by doing what it did against East on Friday night: Forcing turnovers. The ’Bolts turned the ball over five times, and that led to 28 of Portsmouth’s 35 points. That will need to happen again to put the Hawks on their heels.

I have no doubt the Patriots will move the ball better than they did against Hendricken the first time. As head coach Ryan Moniz said after Friday’s win over East, they were still “shell-shocked” following their comeback loss to South Kingstown the week prior.

Portsmouth will be riding higher this week, and I think that translates to some more points. However, the Patriots will have issues stopping Hendricken’s offense, especially if it is firing on all cylinders with Paye taking snaps at fullback and Hindle hitting all of his spots.

Anything can happen, but I don’t think it’s far-fetched to assume it will be the two private schools duking it out for the state title for the fifth time in seven years.

Prediction: Hendricken 48, Portsmouth 21

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