The Beacon Communications coverage area is officially down to one team for the fall season as the Bishop Hendricken football team is set to take on rival La Salle Academy once again for the state championship this weekend. Last week we saw two big upsets
The Beacon Communications coverage area is officially down to one team for the fall season as the Bishop Hendricken football team is set to take on rival La Salle Academy once again for the state championship this weekend.
Last week we saw two big upsets be dealt to our teams as the North Kingstown girls soccer team beat top-seeded Pilgrim in the semis and the Chariho football team rolled past the Pats in the semifinal round as well.
It was a reminder that anything can happen in sports, especially at the high school level.
The Pilgrim girls were arguably the best team in the state up until the upset loss against the Skippers. The team’s only league loss came at the hands of Cumberland, who was right there toward the top of the standings. Cranston West - who was also a playoff team - managed to tie the Lady Pats in the regular season.
Other than those two matches and a non-league matchup against Bishop Feehan of Massachusetts, Pilgrim was virtually untested all season long. Heck, they even the Skippers did not put up much of a fight in their first two meetings, going 0-2 by a combined score of 9-0.
I harp on the importance of momentum all the time, and the Skippers are the latest example of that as they got hot at the right moment, pulled off the huge upset against Pilgrim and then went on to beat La Salle at states. What a streak to go on.
As for Chariho, I only covered the team once this year during the regular season finale against Toll Gate. The Chargers rolled from start to finish and really poured it on the Titans who struggled for much of the season.
I remember leaving that game thinking, ‘Man, Chariho is about as tough and physical a team I’ve seen all season long.’
Did I think that it had what it took to beat Pilgrim, though? Not really.
Chariho took a lead into halftime of the first meeting and forced Pilgrim to pull a rabbit out of its hat in the second half to complete the comeback.
Did I expect a tough matchup for Pilgrim? Yes.
Did I think that Chariho had no chance of getting it done? No.
But overall, Pilgrim’s only loss came to top-seeded Narragansett and the Pats had built a ton of momentum since that day. Pilgrim’s offense was a force all fall, the defense played well down the stretch, the Pats were at home, I felt pretty confident in saying that Pilgrim would get the job done and take on the Mariners in the Super Bowl. It just seemed like those two teams had separated themselves and were on a collision course to run it back.
Chariho’s tenacity paid off, though, as it traveled to Warwick and handed Pilgrim a one-sided defeat. The Chargers will be the underdog once again this week, but I think they proved with last week’s win that they are as game a team as you will find. Should be interesting.
That’s the beauty and the curse of high school sports. Rewind two weeks ago, it looked like Pilgrim was on the inside track to bring home one, maybe even two championships. Just like that, those teams fell short of even making the big game.
As exciting as upsets are, it’s always tough to see the favorites come up short. You always have to feel for the seniors, especially. Pilgrim football is still a fairly young team so most of its players will get another crack at it next fall. The Pilgrim girls will also have a nice core of returners, but will lose some key seniors.
As always, the postseason has been a roller coaster ride in each sport. Again, sometimes all a team needs is a little bit of momentum to shock the state.
As for this weekend’s state championship matchup, I’m as excited as someone can be for a matchup that has been played out a million times.
The reason is because I expect this to be an actual coin flip. Hendricken has largely dominated the matchup over the past decade, but as we have all been saying in the media this season, the Hawks have shown some vulnerability this year while the Rams have put together one of their better campaigns of recent memory … well, for La Salle standards.
Hendricken seems to have turned a corner recently as it cruised past North Kingstown in the semis. The Hawks made it look easy and seemed to be the Hawks of old.
I expect a high-flying affair. La Salle always puts up big numbers and although the Hendricken offense had to search for its identity, it seems to have found it over the past two contests. Defensively, Hendricken has also improved as of late.
My prediction? I think the Hawks get it done but I am expecting a razor-thin contest. Last spring, the Rams took the lead into halftime but the Hawks rolled in the second half to win by a wide margin … you would have never known how close the first half was.
This time around though, I don’t think the Rams will lay an egg. I expect La Salle to battle for all four quarters. The key will be stopping the run game if you ask me. David Lynch and the Hawks are more than capable of throwing the ball, but things really started clicking once Hendricken regained its rushing attack that was choppy in the early going.
If the Rams take away the rushing attack and can establish one of its own, then they will have every chance to win this game.
At the end of the day though, I am always reluctant to pick against the defending champs. I’ll take the Hawks, 27-21.
One last shout out to the Johnston football team as well. Midway through the regular season, the Panthers were struggling to keep pace and things were looking iffy in terms of their ceiling.
Johnston’s turning point was in a 14-0 loss to Pilgrim, in a game that they were in from start to finish and proved that they were still a team to be reckoned with in Division III.
The Panthers reached the playoffs and took home an epic win against Middletown, then gave Narragansett a game until late in the match in the semis. I know that Johnston had bigger goals in mind, but not a bad finish by any means.
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