Wednesday, December 4, 2013

One Step Closer

History is now within their grasp. 

No Rhode Island high school football team has ever won four straight state titles.  Not one. Of course, this state has seen its share of sports dynasties - Mount St. Charles hockey is probably the first that always comes to mind, but there's also the football runs of Rogers and Portsmouth (to say nothing of our own in the early-to-mid '90's), our basketball program's seven state titles in a row, and our baseball team's general run of dominance since the late 90's. There has never been, however, a football run during which a school managed to string together four titles in a row. 

Not one. 

Now, our guys have that chance. Ironically, this run began with a loss to Barrington in the 2009 Super Bowl, which means that our upcoming appearance in this Sunday's 2013 Super Bowl against Cranston East (noon, Cranston Stadium) makes it five consecutive trips to the showcase game. In a game once again broadcast live right here on The Network, our guys punched their ticket to the Stadium last night with a fairly dominant performance in their semi-final victory over Portsmouth, 36-15. Network sideline man extraordinnaire Max Zweiner caught up with Head Coach Keith Croft immediately following the game and got the coach's reaction to the win:

Hawks' fans can still watch the largest portion of the second half in the UStream viewer at the top of the page.

I say that it was a "fairly" dominant performance, because as in all things, it's important to be fair; Portsmouth is a very good football team. If not for the ability of our defense to stiffen during moments when it counts most, the halftime situation could have easily been much different. The Hawks led, 15-0, at the half, but for all intents and purposes, it was still a much closer game at that point. If there is, indeed, any truth to the generally-accepted axiom that "offense wins games, but defense wins championships", then our guys proved that last night. 

Two of the game-changing moments came when quarterback Pat Gill hit wide receiver Mike Scarcella at midfield for a 95-yard touchdown, which can be seen right here:

...and the defensive stop generated by our defense after a Portsmouth 65-yard kickoff return to the Hawks' 10-yard-line with 22 seconds remaining in the first half. The Patriots took four shots at the end zone but came away with zero points to end the half. One of the plays in the defensive series for the Hawks can be seen here, in which defensive back Matt Duffie makes an outstanding play to once again deny the Patriots:

In fact, had the Patriots managed to score early in the game - when they drove to the Hawks' 5-yard-line, failed to punch it across, and then missed a short field goal - and during the sequence at the end of the half, this may have been a much, much different game. 

Highlights for the Hawks were many. Quarterback Pat Gill threw for three touchdown passes, two of which went to senior co-captain Mike Scarcella. In addition to the 95-yarder above, the two seniors also hooked up for one of fifty yards:

Pat also ran for a touchdown of sixty yards, in addition to hitting Mitchell Lucci for another score thirty seconds before the half. He also got the Hawks off and running early in the game with this 54-yard run:

Pat was not the only Hawk to add to the highlight reel. Running back Gary Gibbs pitched in with a 35-yard run in the second half, and Kyle Ciquera did his best impersonation of Wes Welker with this grab:

All in all, however, the real story was the defense. We may not hear their names all the time, they may not be flashy, but they make it possible for the Hawks' offense to put some distance between themselves and their opponents. A common truth about life is that the people who simply go out and do their jobs are the ones who are seldom rewarded with accolades but are inevitably the most valuable. So it is with our defense. 

So....History waits to see if it can welcome a new team into its ranks. This Sunday, our guys will line up against the Cranston East Thunderbolts, a team with incredible offensive firepower. Should anyone doubt that, all one has to do is to take a look at the job they did last night on Barrington, the #1 seed, in the other state semi-final. As Coach Panataleo said last night after the game, "East is for real." 

Let's show up in force for our guys' shot at history, in what will essentially be a home game for the Thunderbolts. Let's get loud, let's support our guys, and let's make sure that East knows we're there.

The Network will be. You can count on that.