Rams finally get over hump


Well, it finally happened. For the first time, I covered a Bishop Hendricken football loss when the rival La Salle Rams ran away with a 38-29 victory at Cranston Stadium.

It was the first championship for the Rams since they beat the Hawks in 2017, which was the season prior to my arrival. The Hawks, as you know, had won every time since.

I was at the point where I was not going to pick against Hendricken when it faced a Rhode Island opponent. We hadn’t seen it in years, and heading into the Sunday, the Hawks were the favorite to get the win again.

It’s not like I thought I would never see the day that Hendricken lost, La Salle nearly won in the regular season and had a great team. It was just one of those things that you never expected each week, but of course, every team has its day.

The biggest difference in this one was the Rams’ offense, which proved to be the best in the state. La Salle had the quarterback, the running backs, the pass catchers, they were just attacking the Hawks all over the field. Although Hendricken’s defense came up big in the regular season, it just could not keep up in the second half as the Rams pulled away with the win.

You also have to give much credit to the La Salle defense.

It was no secret how the Hawks won games on offense … they blocked well up front and relied on running backs Oscar Weah and Ronjai Francis. Obviously stopping those two guys in much easier said than done, but the Rams were on those two from start to finish. Each had their moments, but not enough to keep up with the explosive Rams offense.

It was a really well played football game. Each team made big plays, each team played clean football. There were more penalties than the usual for these teams, but none were back breakers. The Rams won the game, plain and simple.

So, where do the Hawks go from here?

Luckily, the Hawks will be returning much of their lineup. The roster turnover will be less than years past.

Quarterback Jayden Falcone will be back as well as both Weah and Francis. Joel Felix will return, as will Rushaune Villane. Hendricken isn’t going anywhere.

I think the key will be for the pass catchers to emerge. Although guys like Devin Lynch had solid years, it seemed like the Hawks never really had a way to exploit the secondary. It was Falcone’s first year as a starter, so I am sure that was part of it, but next year he will be a senior and a few young receivers will be back in the fold. The rushing attack will continue to be the best in the state, but I think the biggest thing will be finding more playmakers in the passing game.

As for the defense, it was a solid group and held the Rams in check for six of the eight quarters the two teams played this year, but I think this is also a young group that will be better with experience. Villane’s return will be huge.

It was one of those days that reminded me why sports are so fun. You never truly know who is going to win and there are times when a team just has the right stuff. I was also curious to see the reaction of the Hawks after the tough loss. The kids were devastated as you could imagine, but they ultimately handled it with grace, as did the coaching staff. Heck, can you really be bitter when you’ve won the last four championships and will enter the next season as a top-two team?

Alright, time for more football. It’s Thanksgiving week which means we have two more games to cover. Pilgrim vs. Toll Gate and Cranston East vs. Cranston West.

Here are my thoughts and predictions.

As for the Warwick rivalry, I have to go with Pilgrim. Neither the Pats or Titans had great seasons, but the Pats did at least get a couple wins and were competitive in most of the games they played. They’re a young, rebuilding group.

The Titans will return to the action after dropping out of last year’s Beacon Bowl. The Titans had a tough season, going winless and not being very competitive. This program is in the thick of a total rebuild from top to bottom.

Pilgrim has a few more answers at this point on both sides of the ball. With guys like Matt Santos, Dylan Roberts, Jack Coffey, I think Pilgrim will win this one. Toll Gate will be motivated so I am not expecting a 40-point thrashing like the last time they squared off, but I think heading into the fourth quarter we will know the result.

Prediction: Pilgrim 34, Toll Gate 13

West is coming off a tough loss in the Division II Semifinals against Portsmouth and will be hungry to finish its season off the right way. East on the other hand went winless in league play. It did win its consolation game and played Woonsocket and Barrington tough, so my point is that the Bolts’ record is not a true reflection of where they’re at.

I have to go with West. The Falcons had the better year and although the Bolts answered a few questions down the stretch, it’s just hard to pick against the team that nearly reached the Super Bowl.

I will say, though, I do expect this to be a close one. These teams are always competitive and last year was no different. I just think that Kelan Cornell, Marcus Chung and Dimitri LeBlanc will be too much as the game wears on. D’Qwon Foster, Romeo Cordero and Peyton Ginolfi are playmakers, too, but I’m taking West.

Prediction: West 28, East 18

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