The Bishop Hendricken football team kicked off its state title defense but topping the Cranston West Falcons 27-7 last week in the teams’ season opener at Cranston Stadium.
Leading just 14-7 heading into the fourth quarter, the Hawks would break things open in the final 15 minutes with touchdown runs of 61 and 55 yards from quarterback Tom Comella and running back James Gobewole to put the game out of reach for West.
Despite losing the contest by 20 points, the Falcons defense frustrated the Hawks offense throughout the first half and much of the night.
“That’s a good football team over there and they have state title aspirations like we do. I’m not surprised the least bit, that was not a 27-7 game, that was back-and-forth the whole way,” said Hendricken coach Keith Croft. “Their kids played hard and battled, they played well defensively. I don’t think it’s anything we did wrong, I think it’s what they did well.”
After a scoreless first quarter, the Hawks would get on the board less than a minute into the second when a long drive resulted in a 4-yard score from Angel Sanchez to give the Hawks the lead.
West would return the favor four minutes later when quarterback Cam Alves connected with Kris Degaitas for a 23-yard score to knot the score at 7-7.
The Falcons held on to the momentum in the ensuing minutes, and would recover a Hendricken fumble at their own 9-yard line the following drive. However, the Hendricken defense would recover and go on to stop the West offense.
Comella would then connect with Sanchez with 51 seconds left in the half on a 36-yard strike to extend the Hawks’ lead to 14-7 at the break.
The teams would go scoreless in the third quarter, but Comella and Gobewole would score within a minute of each other in the final quarter to wrap up the win.
“We’ve got a few things to work on. We need to work on our composure, we faced some adversity and we wanted to face adversity so we could see how we’d handle it. We played them tough for awhile there but they just wore us down. They’re at the top of the mountain for a reason, we’re still climbing,” said West coach Tom Milewski after the loss.
“Our goal is to get better and stronger in the fourth quarter and to continue to improve and get better as the season goes on, we definitely played better in the second half than we did in the first,” said Croft. “In the first half, there were some adjustment challenges (on the offensive line), but in the second half the assignments were better. They played much more physical in the second half and I think as the game went on we wore them down a little bit. We just need to get back to work to get better and more physical, like any team this time of year, we just want to get better.”
The Hendricken defense was sharp in its first outing, coming up with key stops throughout. The Falcons were on the brink of tying the score late in the third quarter when they advanced to the Hendricken 15, but the defense would make a pivotal stop on 4th and 5 to end the threat. The Hawks also zeroed in on Alves, who is among the top quarterbacks in the state heading into 2019.
“He’s one of the best players in the state so you have to know where he is every play. He’s a handful and I think for the most part, our defense did a good job against him and the scramble. Anytime you face a player like that, they’re going to make plays, you just need to contain them as best as you can,” said Croft.
The Hawks will host Cumberland on Friday night and hope to keep the ball rolling after topping one of the state’s most complete teams.
“It’s huge, we have been talking about this game for the past two or three weeks now. We knew that they were coming in hungry, both teams wanted to make a statement to start the year,” said Croft. “Throw the score out the window, that is a heck of a football team and I would not be surprised at all if we see them again.”
West will host Central on Friday night at the stadium, and Milewski hopes his team will learn from the loss and continue to improve as the season progresses.
“The road is only going to get tougher from here. I’m sure there will be some positives to take away from tonight, but there are still a few things we need to work on,” said Milewski. “We competed well for three quarters but couldn’t finish in the fourth … finishing is something we’ll definitely have to work on.”