Portsmouth can’t get offense going in Super Bowl showdown

Powerhouse Hendricken has its way in 35-8 D-I win

By Jim Mcgaw
Posted 11/17/19

PORTSMOUTH — Few people expected the Patriots to defeat powerhouse Hendricken — a private school that can recruit football players from all over Rhode Island — in the Division I Super Bowl Saturday at Cranston Stadium.

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Portsmouth can’t get offense going in Super Bowl showdown

Powerhouse Hendricken has its way in 35-8 D-I win

Posted

PORTSMOUTH — Few people expected the Patriots to defeat powerhouse Hendricken — a private school that can recruit football players from all over Rhode Island — in the Division I Super Bowl Saturday at Cranston Stadium.

But few people expected Portsmouth High to even get to the title game this year, either. 

The team has been in a transition period as of late, with three new coaches in as many years. The current head coach, Dustin Almeida, said his team’s success this year is testament to its hard work both on and off the field.

“I made some great relationships with some really special kids and a great group of coaches,” Mr. Almeida said after his team fell to the Hawks, 35-8. “The season itself has been great, obviously, and our success has put a cherry on top, if you will, but honestly the experience with the guys coming in and having all the students together for the first time, went way better than I had even planned — not in terms of wins and losses, but in the relationships I made. I’m real proud of the guys that play here.”

Hendricken’s advantage over Portsmouth was evident the moment the players took to the field. The Hawks, who were playing for the state title for the 11th straight year (and had won nine of those Super Bowls), came loaded with a roster of 73 players. 

Most of them were much bigger than the Patriots, who came in with a roster of 40 players and were making their first appearance in the D-I Super Bowl since 2010.

The Patriots also came into the game a little banged up. Sophomore quarterback Ben Hurd returned to play after dislocating his shoulder earlier in the year, and wide receiver Henry Gibson also was back on the field after nursing an ankle injury. However, one of the Patriots’ most valuable players didn’t take the field.

Danny McKinnon, who triples as a wide receiver, quarterback and defensive back, was still sidelined due to an injury in a game earlier this year.

Right off the bat, the Patriots knew they had to try some different things to have any chance of upsetting the Hawks. They ran some unusual formations and even began the game with an onside kick.

“The boys and I had talked and we said, ‘Hey listen, if we’re going out there, we’re going to fire all shots,’” Mr. Almeida said. “It was a let’s-not-leave-anything-on-the-shelf kind of mentality.”

The onside kick wasn’t successful since the ball didn’t travel at least 10 yards, and the Patriots had to kick again after a five-yard penalty. This time, they tried a squib kick, but the Hawks recovered at the 50-yard line. (In fact, it seemed as though Hendricken started their offensive drives at midfield all afternoon.)

On their first play from scrimmage, however, the Hawks fumbled and the Patriots recovered at their own 49. Whatever hopes Portsmouth had of putting Hendricken on its heels were dashed quickly, however, when their drive sputtered quickly. 

Taking over on downs at their own 48, Hendricken’s star running back Angel Sanchez took the ball on the first snap and ran 52 yards up the middle into the end zone, giving his team a 7-0 lead with 8:52 left in the first quarter.

Turnover dooms drive

Portsmouth’s next drive showed promise, with running back Jake Letourneau pulling off a 33-yard run down the left sideline to get to the Hawks’ 28. Three players later with the ball on the 15, however, he’d be stripped of the ball and Hendricken took possession.

The Patriots didn’t allow another touchdown until under two minutes left in the hand, when Sanchez ran the ball in from three yards, capping off a nine-play, 61-yard drive by the Hawks. Portsmouth went into halftime with a 14-0 deficit, having gained only 60 yards of offense.

Portsmouth started with the ball in the second half, but had to punt when their offense drive quickly stalled. Hendricken made it 21-0 just over three minutes in when quarterback Tom Comella kept the ball for a five-yard TD run.

With just over a minute left in the third period, Sanchez struck again, running the ball 31 yards into the end zone to make it 28-0.

Portsmouth finally showed signs of life at the start of the third period, when Hurd connected with Cole Ritchey for a 52-yard pass play to the Hawks’ 15 yard line. Luke Cafarella later scored Portsmouth’s only touchdown when he rushed for less than a yard into the end zone, capping off a nine-play, 62-yard drive. The extra point attempt was blocked, making the score 28-6 with 9:29 left in the game.

Less than 20 seconds later, however, the Hawks scored again. James Gobewole took the ball on the first play and ran it 50 yards down the left sideline into the end zone, making it 35-6 with 9:11 left in the game. Hendricken had scored touchdowns on its last four possessions, and on five of the previous six.

Portsmouth gained another two points when a high snap by Hendricken — a problem all afternoon for the Hawks — went over everyone and into the end zone, causing a safety for the Patriots.

Injuries ‘no excuse’

Mr. Almeida acknowledged that his team came into the game a little banged up, but said that wasn’t a factor in the loss. 

“We were prepared to overcome those injuries; we had players in the right spots,” he said. “A little bit late it started to get disheveled, but it was too late for anything anyway. I just think that (Hendricken’s) a good football team. Ultimately, there are no excuses. They outplayed us.”

After the game, he gathered his players to tell them how proud he was of them.

““I just told them … not hold their heads down, and keep believing in what they’ve done and what they’ve set for the future,” he said. “We still have two weeks of football left and I know they want to go back to work.”

“They’re a very hard-working group of young men. I think people sometimes point to us and they we have some superlatives out here in Portsmouth, but the reality is these guys put in a lot of time and a lot of work. They’re feeling the rewards, and I think that’s a good thing.”

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