The Hendricken football team began its quest for an eighth straight Division I championship with a convincing, 45-0 home victory over the Cumberland Clippers last Friday night, as its defense forced four first-half turnovers, which the Hawks’ offense would turn into points.
The Hawks, who finished 7-0 this year and have not lost a game since 2014, have not allowed any points in their last 144 minutes of play, and they pitched their fifth shut out of the season.
“We played well defensively, it’s something we take a lot of pride in,” said Hendricken head coach Keith Croft. “Our defense has done a phenomenal job considering all the starters we had to replace this year, and our offensive line brought a lot of intensity to this game.”
Cumberland, which finished 3-4 in Division I-B, would turn the ball over at Hendricken's 8-yard line on its first possession of the game. On their second play from scrimmage, the Hawks’ Evan Rinaldi cashed in on an 8-yard touchdown to put his team up, 7-0, with only one minute, 45 seconds played in the game.
The Clippers would drive down to the Hawks’ 30 on their next possession, but would turn the ball over on downs.
The Hawks made their only mistake of the game when they fumbled at their own 38, but Dylan Gardner would force a Clippers’ fumble, setting up a Tom Comella to Devin Rivet 30-yard touchdown pass, putting the home team up by two scores.
The Hawks recovered their third fumble of the first quarter at the Clippers’ 25-yard line. On the very next play, Angel Santana would cover those 30 yards for a touchdown and a 21-0 Hawk lead with 1:35 left in the opening quarter.
A Rinaldi sack forced a Clippers’ punt, giving the Hawks good field position at the visitors’ 44.
Isreal Emmanuel's 33-yard run set up a 22-yard field goal by Cole Peterson as the second quarter opened. Peterson would connect on all six of his extra points on the night.
The Hawks would take a 31-0 halftime lead on a Rivet 55-yard touchdown, as he stiff armed a Cumberland defender to get in the end zone. Rivet was playing his first game since breaking his collarbone in the first game of the year against La Salle, and was happy to be back in the lineup.
“It's my senior year and I'm glad to be back,” Rivet said. “I'm looking forward to playing more.”
“Rivet has been a great leader for us this year,” Croft said. “We are very happy for him.”
The Hawks continued to dominate in the second half, even on a play when Comella dropped the ball from center, but he alertly picked it up and would run 35 yards into the end zone as the Clippers’ defense did not know what had happened.
Later, Angel Sanchez turned the corner on a 56-yard touchdown run, as he made a nice cut on his first carry of the game to complete the Hawks’ scoring.
Hendricken is now on a collision course with Cranston East, which won its quarterfinal game against Cranston West, 49-28. The ’Bolts have a very high-powered offense, scoring 395 points this season, but the Hawks’ defense has allowed only 35 points.
“Our defense has to rise up and get ready to answer East's offense,” Croft said. “We have to be physical with East and run the ball at them, it's the only way to slow them down. Our running game is going well, it's just what we want to see as we go into the playoffs. No one has slowed down East all season.”
“We have a lot of depth at all positions,” Rivet said. “We don't always rely on one guy. We just have to work hard and get ready for East.”
The Hawks will host the Thunderbolts this Friday night at 7 p.m. in the Division I semifinals. It will be the best offense in the league against the best defense in the league for the right to play in the Division I Super Bowl on Dec. 2 at Cranston Stadium.