The defending state champion Bishop Hendricken football team hit the road last week to open its season against the Division I Super Bowl finalist Cranston West Falcons. The two teams battled through the first three quarters, and the Falcons actually looked poised to push for the upset, but the Hawks would cruise in the final quarter to take a sizable lead and to wrap up the 27-7 win.
My first and biggest takeaway was that the Falcons are just as good, maybe even better than last year’s group. Last season was the second straight year that West qualified for the playoffs after a lengthy drought, so the Falcons proved that they were a playoff team, but this season in my eyes was more about proving that last year’s deep run was not just a flash in the pan.
It’s just one game, but the fact that the Falcons hung with the Hawks and outplayed them for large portions of the game should tell us something. The West defense was lockdown for the better part of three quarters, and quarterback Cam Alves looked as good as advertised in the Falcon backfield. They just got worn down by game’s end and I think Hendricken’s experience is what helped propel it to the big fourth quarter. It’ll be interesting to see a rematch between these two clubs and it is something that I am certainly rooting for.
My next takeaway was that this Hendricken offense is feeling the effects of its transition this season.
Defensively, Hendricken was elite in this game. Outside of one or two drives, the Hawks kept Alves and company in check and really controlled the pace of play … the Falcons had to earn every inch they gained. The Hendricken special teams unit was solid as well.
But offensively, it was clear that this is a team that is still trying to find its way. They lost their power back in Israel Emmanuel, their star left tackle in Xavier Truss, their tight end in Will Tuttle, and couple more pieces to their high-flying offense from last year. Outside of quarterback Tom Comella, wide receiver Angel Sanchez and a couple of linemen, this offense is still pretty new.
Am I concerned even the slightest bit? No, this team has more than enough talent and experience to figure things out.
It was hard to really gauge the final quarter and what to take away from it. The two scores from Comella and Gobewole came from rushes of 61 and 55 yards … they weren’t long, drawn out, calculated drives. Part of me left thinking to myself, ‘OK, that was a peak at how explosive this offense will be from now on,’ but the other part of me thought, ‘This offense struggled throughout much of the game, those two plays were just fortunate bounces their way.’
Even now after replaying them in my mind and considering the game as a whole, I really don’t have the answer to which one it was. Like most situations, I’m sure it was probably somewhere in the middle.
This is only my second season covering the team, so I can’t really recall the roster turnover throughout the years and how Hendricken handled new faces and roles. However, the turnover from last season does seem a bit greater than most teams usually, and it certainly felt that way in the opening half last Friday.
But, when looking at the core pieces the Hawks have, last week’s slow start was nothing to panic about. Not to mention the Falcon defense is legit … they have multiple stud linebackers and a solid secondary led by Alves at safety, so for the Hawks to put up 27 points is nothing to overlook.
Comella should once again be one of the top signal callers in the state, and he had the Falcons scrambling at times with his dual threat ability. Sanchez is also one of the elite players in the league and had himself a big game as well … those two alone should be enough to carry the offense.
The Hawks also return the same core on its line and has been rotating a few different running backs. As long as the line can mesh and one of these running backs step up, the Hawks should be pretty close to where they were last season.
It’ll be interesting to see how things unfold in the next few weeks. Will the Hawks offense be able to stay the course and get production from new faces? Will they have to change the look of their scheme to fit the new guys that they have? Will opposing defenses change their approach when facing the defending champs?
On the flip side, will the Falcons continue to grow and make a serious run at a state championship? After last week’s game, I don’t think that’s outside the realm of possibility. Of course, there is still La Salle, North Kingstown, Cranston East, there are still seven weeks to go in the regular season, there are a lot of factors that are in play.
I hope to see these two teams cross paths again, and to see if the Falcons can make the proper adjustments to finish the job, or if the Hawks can do even more damage with its new offense.