As expected, the Bishop Hendricken football team cruised past Portsmouth 35-8 to win its ninth state championship in 10 seasons.
It was a typical Hendricken win and a typical Hendricken day. The offense utilized both the running game and the passing game and moved the ball up and down the field at will. The defense played, tough, physical football and made Portsmouth work for every inch it gained.
Now, did I expect a 27-point beat down? Not really, Portsmouth has been one of the top teams all season, and the Hawks have had a couple of competitive matchups.
But did I, or anyone for that matter, expect Portsmouth to win or even really come close? I don’t think so.
Before I dig into this column, let me first start off by saying congratulations to the Hawks for another stellar performance and season. I think at this point there is no arguing that this is the best run that a high school football team has ever gone on in the state, and it is now becoming one of the most dominant programs in the entire country.
The Hawks deserve nothing but our respect. Sure, do they always have the advantage thanks to all the private school has to offer its students and athletes? Yes, but there are plenty of other private schools in the state as well, there is nothing to take away from this program at this point, there just isn’t.
Hendricken does in fact have the most talent, but it also has the best coaches, the most stability, it’s just on another level altogether.
That said, I have to admit, I was wrong last season when I openly mocked the new playoff format.
I thought that it was silly to make a state championship and four Super Bowls. I thought it was just a bunch of sore losers further contributing to the wretched trophy generation that we are currently in.
My attitude was, instead of just handing the Hawks the trophy each year, to continue to have it be a somewhat open format and see if there is a team each year that can knock them off.
Sure, La Salle was able to do just that in 2017, but that now seems like a long, long time ago and all but forgotten.
It is clear that Hendricken is just too far beyond the rest and that it is officially unreasonable to think that another school public or private, can knock them off. Although Hendricken loses a big chunk of its core next year, there is still enough talent and experience returning for it to be right back in the same place.
So, I admit, reluctantly, that I was wrong, and the divisional Super Bowls are for the best. It gives more teams in Division I a chance to play for a title and it is not just a foregone conclusion each season.
There is one big imperfection though.
North Kingstown was the only team to come close to topping the Hawks this season and is clearly the second-best unit in the state. The Skippers will be facing Cranston West for the Super Bowl this weekend instead, as Portsmouth won the tiebreaker in the standings to earn its spot in the State Championship.
Although I’m sure the Skippers would happily hoist their second-straight Division I Super Bowl trophy, I’m sure that it eats at them knowing that they could have, and should have, had one more opportunity to knock the Hawks off and win the even bigger prize. I believe the Hawks would have won regardless, but still, Portsmouth probably should be the one playing against West this weekend.
How will things change moving forward? Will things change? Do they need to change? I guess time will tell, but for now, I am on board with the current setup, and do not see the Hawks being knocked off any time soon.
Here are my predictions for our final two teams remaining.
Pilgrim is facing Tolman for the Division III Super Bowl on Saturday.
Much like Hendricken, Pilgrim has been dominant this season and has only been pushed once or twice. One of those teams was Tolman, whose tough, physical, brash style of play matched Pilgrim’s and forced the Pats to dig deeper than they had all season to earn the win.
I have heard some media personnel comment on the game, with some even thinking Tolman can get it done.
I believe that we are in for another rock fight, but Pilgrim has been the clear, No. 1 team in D3 all season long, and I expect the Pats to bring their best come Saturday and to avenge last year’s loss.
Prediction: Pilgrim 28, Tolman 16 The Cranston West Falcons have been the hottest team in Division I other than Hendricken over the past few weeks.
The Falcons crushed La Salle on the road, handled East Providence in back to back games with ease, then topped Central by multiple scores last week to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl.
West is a pretty complete team. Quarterback Cam Alves has really expanded his play this season and has emerged as arguably the best dual threat in the state. Brennan Stetson is a nightmare to deal with out of the backfield, and guys like Kris Degaitas are more than capable receivers.
The West defense is tough and physical too, and rarely give up the big play. Now, Central proved that West can be passed on, which is bad news considering North Kingstown has the best passing game in the state.
It would not be wise to count this West team out though, as many are. The Skippers are the favorite and should be, but the Falcons pushed them to the brink last year and I am expecting something similar this time around.
Prediction: North Kingstown 27, Cranston West 21