By ALEX SPONSELLER Despite trailing 16-14 at halftime, the Bishop Hendricken football team would surge to beat rival La Salle, 43-22, to win its 10th state title in 11 years.
Trailing 16-14 heading into the third quarter, the Hawks began to roll and set the tone by marching downfield on the first drive to get a score from Isaiah Emmanuel to regain the 21-16 lead. Emmanuel went on to rush for another score later in the quarter, followed by a successful 2-point pass from kicker Danny Rice to Teighan Jeremy, to extend the Hawk lead to 29-16.
La Salle hung in there, though, getting a score with 10:08 remaining in regulation to make the score 29-22. The Rams would later get possession and get into Hawks territory, but Hendricken’s Brandyn Durand would haul in an interception and return it 71 yards for the score to give his team the 36-22 lead.
The Hawks would continue to press and would recover a Ram fumble on the ensuing kickoff. Shyne Fernandes capped off the new possession with a rushing score to make it 43-22 and put the game out of reach.
“It was like a game of momentum. We had a big momentum swing early on, then they had a momentum swing, we had to battle back, it was a great effort. I think coming into this year, a lot of people doubted this team. I think that we may not have had the offensive firepower that we had in previous years, but these guys battled all year, never quit, I’m so proud of them and am so proud of my coaches,” said Hendricken head coach Keith Croft.
Durand, who is a defensive end for the Hawks, was also used in the defensive backfield quite a bit throughout the game and was a spark plug with his tough running.
“He’s a big, strong kid, and we felt that it would give our offense a little different dimension. We wanted it, we worked on it at practice, the coaches did a good job of getting them ready and it made a big difference today,” said Croft.
The first quarter was a quiet one, with each defense playing well and the Rams taking a small 3-0 lead. Hendricken went on two get two scores early in the second, both on touchdown passes to Jeremy from Zach Lavergne.
However, Dante Iafrate and Jordan Pugh would haul in consecutive touchdowns in the final four minutes of the half to give La Salle the 16-14 lead.
“Believe or not it was similar to the NK game. We said, ‘Guys, we can’t panic, we just have to answer. It’s basically a tied game, it was a really lousy ending to the first (half). We’ve got to get back to what we do well, which is running the football, playing defense,” said Croft.
“It’s crazy, they’re a great team. We knew coming in that they were going to go hard, we went hard as well. I’m just proud of the team. The coaches told us to just keep pushing, we’ve got this game,” said Emmanuel, who was named the game’s MVP.
With another championship in the books, Croft and the Hawks were thrilled to continue to cement their place as the state’s premier program.
“It’s special,” said Croft. “We talk all the time with guys here about legacy, leaving it for the next generation which is important.”