This matchup was a highly anticipated one with the number one Bishop Hendricken Hawks coming into Conley Stadium to take on the number six Central Knights.
Both teams boasted great defenses and showed electric flashes on offense in a closely fought defensive bout. This game certainly lived up to its potential, being predicted to be the best high school game in Rhode Island this past Friday.
The first half of the ball game was dominated by defense, with the score being 0-0 heading into halftime. The defensive lines for both the Hawks and Knights played exceptionally, with multiple players swarming to the ball carrier at all times. The usually productive Hawks backfield consisting of juniors Ronjai Francis, Oscar Weah, and mobile quarterback Jayden Falcone was held in check in the first half.
Leading up to this game, the Knights defensive unit had only given up 64 points. Central Knights Head Coach Michael Washington made it very clear that defense has been and was going to be a key factor in their success.
“We’re a football team that likes to run and play defense and I think the winning factor of this game is going to be defense. I think it will come down to which team makes the stop, maybe the last possession or last two possessions,” said Washington.
Although there was no scoring in the first two quarters, Central’s offense showed some explosiveness, with junior Saquan Hall ripping a 53-yard run off an end around to get the Knights in scoring position in the first quarter. Hendricken’s defense held strong, forcing a fourth down incompletion to keep Central from scoring. Later in the second quarter, Knights junior quarterback Avani Rodrigues hit senior playmaker Armase Edouard for 42 yards on a sideline streak. Pregame, Edouard’s Head coach commented on how helpful he has been for Central this season.
“He’s definitely our best all-around player, he can run, he can catch, he can play defense. We’ll definitely look to get him the ball a few times just to get him going,” said Washington.
Unfortunately for the Knights, Edouard’s effort only resulted in another goal line stand by the Hawks, whose strong defensive line forced a sack, incompletion, and a stuffed run. The Hawks took over possession with only four seconds left in the half. The Hawks defense was playing strong with two goal line stops in the first half.
Coming into the second half, the Knights marched down the field and scored in just three plays, two of which involved standout running back and receiver Armase Edouard. Rodrigues found Edouard again on a seam pattern that resulted in a 55-yard gain. Edouard finished the drive off with a touchdown on a toss play. The Knights had a failed two-point attempt, which made the score 6-0, Knights in the third quarter. Pregame, Bishop Hendricken Hawks Head Coach Keith Croft addressed the threat Armase Edouard Presents.
“We've got to tackle him, we can’t have a lot of yards after contact and our guys have to be good tacklers tonight, if we can do that at the line of scrimmage, we’ll be okay,” said Croft
The Hawks were quick to respond, with a touchdown of their own, scored by junior running back and bulldozer Ronjai Francis, carrying some Knights with him into the endzone. The score was set up by a couple of big runs by Oscar Weah and Jayden Falcone. The Hawks kicked the extra point to go up 7-6 with 2:53 left in the third quarter. In response, the Knights began to drive down the field with a big reception by senior running back Theron Zarwea. The Knights’ promising drive was ultimately ended by an interception by Hawks senior cornerback and receiver Noah West.
The Hawks took full advantage of West’s interception, holding on to possession for over ten minutes, running the ball and tiring the Knight’s defense. The Hawks put an exclamation point on their long drive with a rushing touchdown up the gut by Ronjai Francis once again. The extra point was good, to make the score 14-6, Hendricken.
After the Hawks’ score, the Knights received the ball with 1:45 left in the game, trying to do the improbable. The improbable quickly started to look probable, with Rodrigues heating up in a two-minute drill, hitting senior receiver Zion Duarte three times in a row in between spikes for 30 yards. Rodrigues then looked in the direction of sophomore receiver Joseph Forbes, hitting him with a back shoulder fade, with Forbes making a beautiful adjustment on the sideline, dragging his feet. Forbes’ reception set up the Knights at the Hawks’ 16-yard line.
After a couple of incompletions, Central found themselves in a tough third and ten, which was converted by another spectacular throw and catch. Rodrigues found Theron Zarwea on a fade, Zarwea made an impressive catch in tight coverage, getting knocked out of bounds at the Hawk’s one-yard line. Rodrigues got the touchdown on a quarterback sneak, making the score 14-12 with 13 seconds left on the clock. The Knights needed a two-point conversion to send the game into overtime, but Noah West did not want overtime, getting his second interception of the game on the two point try in the endzone to cement Bishop Hendricken’s 14-12 victory.
This game was a tale of two extremes, with a defensive shutout for both sides in the first half, and back and forth scoring in the second to add up to an emotional ending. For only a combined 26 points, there were some impressive stats put up by both sides.
Central had a balanced offensive attack, with Avani Rodrigues completing 11/22 passes for 203 yards, 91 of which was received by Armase Edouard. Zion Duarte was all around the field with three receptions for 36 yards, and a rush for 53 yards. Theron Zarwea had a similar night with nine rushes for 34 yards and 2 receptions for 39. Standouts for the Knights’ defense included senior linebacker Dvonn Carides, getting in on many tackles and pressures, senior Bernard Parsons, and junior defensive end Savonn Mom. Much like Hendricken, Central’s entire defensive line played great. On the opposing side, Hawks Head Coach Keith Croft brought up the challenges Central was going to present
“They’re a tough team to prepare for because they do a lot of different things, they’re physical and they got some guys that can run and that’s going to be our challenge tonight. We got to make good tackles,” said Croft
As for Hendricken, most of their yards were found in the ground game, with them rarely passing. The Hawks’ leading rusher was quarterback Jayden Falcone, with 81 yards on 16 carries, next was Ronjai Francis, making a case for MVP of the game with two touchdowns and 68 yards on 14 carries. Oscar Weah rushed for 36 yards on eight carries. Noah West was Hendricken’s defensive standout with two interceptions, one of which sealed the game. Other standouts on defense included Defensive ends Rushaune Vilane and Zion Copeland, constantly getting pressure on the quarterback and stuffing runs in the backfield.
Next week Bishop Hendricken will compete in a non-league game at home against the 4-3 East Providence Townies who got a win of their own last night against Burrillville. After dropping to 0-2 in their league, the Central Knights will hope to get into the win column in another league game at home next week against the North Kingstown Skippers, who are also 0-2 in their league.