From the first day of double sessions back in August, head coach Keith Croft, his staff, and his team had the same goal that they've always set out to accomplish - a state championship. While the goal has always remained the same, however, this season carried with it the specter of another accomplishment, one that remained largely unspoken as the Hawks moved through their regular-season schedule:
the chance to make history.
Since 1972, when the Rhode Island high school playoffs first became official and state championships and super bowls immortalized the ultimate victors, not one high school had ever won four straight - until the Bishop Hendricken High School Hawks turned the four-peat between 2010-2013. Coupled with their appearance in the Super Bowl in 2009 - when they lost to Barrington - it's now proper and appropriate to call our guys a dynasty.
Coach Croft reacted to the win after the game:
Senior co-captain Mike Scarcella also expressed his thoughts:
Strictly from the perspective of Rhode Island high school football itself, it was an incredible Super Bowl Sunday. Fans were outside the stadium parking lot as early as 8:30 am, starting their day with breakfast tailgates, the smells of sausage, eggs, and coffee filling the air. There was a sense of anticipation hovering over the parking lot as well, since this chance at the state tile for the Hawks carried with it something special. Of course, one of the crews leading the way into the day of festivities was The Network - parked outside the parking lot with an incredible pre-game show put on for the fans by anchors Stone Freeman and Zach Johnson. I think it'd be fair to say that for a high school sports production, it had a distinct 'ESPN' feel to it.
While there was that sense of a chance to be there to see history for Hendricken fans, the coaching staff and the team itself knew that the Cranston East Thunderbolts weren't about to stand aside and allow the Hawks to be crowned. Yes, we'd beaten them 35-7 earlier in the season, but as Coach Pantaleo said following the semi-final win over Portsmouth, "East is for real." In a follow-up discussion prior to the title game, he pointed out that East is probably the best offensive team in the state; even though our defense is very good, he felt that part of their (the Hawks') approach was to know that they probably wouldn't be able to stop them throughout the game. He felt that our guys would have to more slow them down and be able to take advantage of matchups when we had the ball.
Coach Pantaleo was, for the most part, prophetic, as East put up 34 points on our guys, but we were able to hang 45 on them.
For most of the first quarter, it appeared that not only might this be a tight game but that East might truly win. The 'Bolts held leads of 7-6 and 14-13, and in the process, seemed as though they had no fear of the Hawks' defense, as they more or less moved the ball at will. QB Pat Gill had gotten the Hawks on the board early with this TD run:
With East on the move on an early possession and knocking on the door of the goal line, defensive back Matt Duffie came up with this crucial INT in the end zone:
The Hawks' other offensive touchdown of the half came from the running of Remy Blue:
After having taken that second lead with under a minute to play in the first half, however, East made a critical error by kicking off to Lee Moses, which resulted in the first game-changing moment of the game, a play which can be seen here:
As a result, the Hawks went into the locker room with a 19-14 lead.
As the second half began, our guys lengthened their lead to 26-14. Having the opening possession of the second half was the result of Coach Croft's decision to defer after having won the opening coin toss, so that coupled with Lee's return for a touchdown just prior to the half paid dividends, as the game began to take on a distinct Hendricken feel. The 'Bolts, however, never went away, consistently moving the ball with relative ease against our defense and keeping themselves in the game; but, when our defense needed to make critical stops, they did their job.
As the second half unfolded, though, it was the running of Remy Blue - voted the game's MVP - and Lee Moses that helped the Hawks gradually to pull away. Two of Lee's long runs and a touchdown run can be seen here:
Remy ran for three touchdowns in the second half, all of which can be seen here:
So, as the final seconds ticked off the clock, the goal for which our guys set out back in August came to fruition, and History welcomed a new member into its club of dynasties. For our seniors, it's been a football run like no other - not only has this class run the table, but as freshman, they also took home the top prize.
Enjoy your time, guys. Moments like these in life are rare, and you'll always look back at these days as some of the greatest of your lives. Congratulations.