SPORTS

Hawks-Rams rivalry renewed

Posted 5/14/21

The Bishop Hendricken football team won its 10th state championship in 11 years with a 43-22 victory over rival La Salle last weekend at Cranston Stadium. Sure, the Hawks are always the favorite and their win was nothing surprising. It has gotten to the

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SPORTS

Hawks-Rams rivalry renewed

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The Bishop Hendricken football team won its 10th state championship in 11 years with a 43-22 victory over rival La Salle last weekend at Cranston Stadium.

Sure, the Hawks are always the favorite and their win was nothing surprising. It has gotten to the point where it is expected. There is the obvious talk about Hendricken and La Salle being private schools and the advantage that gives them. It’s an old topic … relevant, but old.

Usually I like to stick to the big picture when it comes to championships. Games are games, but the big picture is where I usually find myself focusing on in the ensuing days.

But for this, I am going to shift gears and stick to the game itself.

These two teams were pretty much evenly matched heading into the final. Points for, points against, overall performance, this was looking like it could be neck and neck.

Through the first half, that is exactly how it played out. The Hawks built a lead and some momentum in the second quarter, looking ready to head into the halftime break with the game in hand. The Rams answered and made a few big plays to take the 16-14 halftime lead.

Hendricken cruised in the second half, starting with a score right out of the gate on the first drive of the third quarter. The Rams hung in there and were within a score midway through the fourth quarter, but once again, the Hawks just came up with play after play and were up 21 points in seemingly the blink of an eye. It was a wild one.

The state championship is about the two best teams in the state laying it on the line and doing battle, and we got exactly that on Sunday.

Although the game slipped through their fingers, the Rams proved to be more than a worthy foe for the Hawks. Not only did the Rams win the first half, but they were on their way to tying things up in the fourth before the carpet was pulled out from under them.

The Hawks proved that they are still the best team in the state. North Kingstown and La Salle gave them all they could handle, but even still, Hendricken just pulled it off.

What I enjoyed with this matchup more so than other games of theirs in the past was the mental aspect. When these two teams meet, it’s usually 22 athletes letting the ball fly, running all over the field, and whoever has more points at the final whistle is the one who wins. Saturday’s game was chaotic, but there was still a chess match being played that we don’t usually see between these two clubs.

La Salle was up 3-0 after one quarter of play. Each team has an incredible offense, so they had to overcome early struggles. Hendricken took the 14-3 lead midway through the second, and the Rams had to respond fast to keep the game alive and they did. The Hawks had to make a statement heading into the third quarter and they did. The Rams once again had to make some plays to stay in it, and they did.

Then, in the final few minutes, it was the Hawks who came up with the final few plays.

Hendricken continues to be an unstoppable force on the gridiron. They will always be positioned favorably considering the circumstances, but I for one, enjoy the chase.

I said this last season and have actually had a few people call me out for it, but I stand by my feeling that public schools are not that far behind.

North Kingstown had chances to win each matchup against the Hawks, Central just went undefeated (but didn’t have a chance to play a Power 4 program), both East Greenwich and Portsmouth held their own against other top teams. I just feel like at some point a public school is going to break through.

Our other team in championship action this weekend was Johnston in the Division III Super Bowl. The Panthers were the underdog against Coventry, who rolled throughout the regular season and capped off its unbeaten season by taking home the 43-8 win.

It seemed in the past two weeks that Coventry had this division in the bag. Sure, anything can happen and they did have one or two close games, but the Oakers were just so dominant in some other wins that it just seemed like it was their year, which sure enough it was.

The Panthers fell behind early and just never got back into it. That is the sign of a great team in Coventry though … take an early lead, make a statement, and don’t look back.

Now, would I have expected a 35-point blowout? No, the Johnston offense was electric all season long so I thought we would probably see a high-scoring shootout that went to the fourth quarter. Coventry’s defense made plays, Johnston’s didn’t, at least not enough of them.

Although this was certainly not how Johnston envisioned the game going, the Panthers have plenty to feel good about. They had not been to the postseason in multiple years and made it the championship game.

The culture is back to being a winning one, and a few key pieces will be back including junior quarterback Hunter Remington, who developed into one of the state’s better signal callers this season.

For the rest of the returning players, they now know what it takes to make it there, and maybe this will be one of those losses that will pay dividends moving forward.

At the end of the day, I am so happy for the state and these teams being able to squeeze this season in. It was not always easy, definitely not always pretty, but these seniors got one last ride.

We’ll see the rippled effect of cramming two seasons in a six-month window … I have some worries. But hey, if things play out as we’re hoping, we are going to luck out and see another season of football right around the corner.

Season 3 is officially in the books. Here comes Season 4.

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