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La Salle Academy – Bishop Hendricken Gridiron Rivalry Roots Run Deep

In his book The Civil War Rivalry, Kerry Eggers quoted Dennis Boyd about the rivalry between Oregon and Oregon State saying the following:

“[If] you could win the state, you could hold your head up. That was a big deal. It always surprised me, especially as a freshman coming in, how huge this game was. You could be 0-10 and it was still like the Super Bowl. Your whole season depended on winning or losing that game.”

No matter how big or small the rivalry, no matter what the competition, these words seem to ring true. Just ask any sports fan out there what some of their teams’ most significant games of the season are, and inevitably their rivalry game will come up.

Pride, bragging rights, and history are all on the line when rivals play. High school football rivalries are no different. Take young, talented, passionate athletes looking to compete, tell them that one game in particular puts everything on the line, and then watch them play their hearts out.

And when we say ‘everything’ we mean just that. From the anticipation and pride of the fans and alums of that school, to the expectations of their coach and peers, and the competitiveness that comes with the history of these games, and you have a matchup that’s larger than anything these kids may have expected.

And on September 15, two of Rhode Island’s most talented high school football programs – Bishop Hendricken and La Salle Academy – renew their rivalry on the gridiron. No matter how big a fan you are, this is a Rhode Island rivalry worth watching.

A Story of Hawks and Rams

Take two of the best sports programs in the state, match them up regularly, and a rivalry is bound to form.

“Rivalries are usually the product of similarities between the schools and a tradition of high level competition,” explained Hendricken Athletic Director Paul Alianiello. “Since Hendricken and LaSalle are similar schools of similar size it’s natural that there would be a rivalry.”

Alianiello is right. Both are premiere programs in the state. In 2005 the Rams were given the accolade of the Best Athletic Program in Rhode Island by Sports Illustrated. And with good reason. Their programs – from soccer to gymnastics to football – regularly capture championships and put new hardware in their school trophy cases.

The Hawks are just as competitive. Just three years after La Salle won Best Athletic Program by Sports Illustrated, Hendricken won the award in 2008. The award may have come at a bittersweet time when, despite usurping their rivals for this accolade, La Salle won the Rhode Island State Championship in football.

Given the awards these teams have won, it comes as no surprise that they regularly compete against each other in the postseason as well.

Alianiello provided insight into the storied rivalry between these two programs. “In football over the past decade Hendricken and LaSalle have been consistently contenders for the championship and have in fact faced each other in the state final a number of times. This tradition of excellence for both programs builds the tradition year after year.”

These two schools combined have the most amount of Rhode Island Super Bowl Championships of any other team in the state. In fact, since 1990, MaxPreps noted that there’s only been two seasons where neither La Salle or Hendricken appeared.

Outside of athletics, both schools are prestigious, Catholic programs with notable alumni in many different careers. Athletes are regularly recruited to college programs and play in the NCAA.


Recent Matchups: Playing for Everything

Everyone surrounding a rivalry, from athletes to coaches to fans, understands what’s at stake. Rivalries are a key part of any successful season. Alianiello knew that finding a coach who understood what the rivalry meant was critical in cultivating a successful program.

Alianiello reflected on the hiring of Head Coach Keith Croft. “[Croft] put together a packet which detailed his vision for the program. Many of the pages were filled with complicated plans for his tenure. One page said simply: ‘Beat LaSalle.’ As a member of the selection committee for our new coach, I knew from that page that Keith understood the importance of the rivalry.”

In recent years, these two teams have found themselves playing in the biggest game of the year: the Rhode Island Super Bowl Championships. Since 2011, Hendricken and La Salle have played each other in all but one (2013) championship – with Hendricken winning every matchup.

This recent surge has put Hendricken ahead in the head-to-head against La Salle. The Hawks now have a 14-8 record against their in-state rival. Every game has been physical. Although the final scores have varied in closeness, the first rule of this rivalry is that victory is never a sure thing, and every win must be earned. Given the talent of these two programs, both regular season and post season matchups and are something to anticipate.

Hendricken and La Salle take to the field on Friday, September 15, for another regular season matchup. This may act as yet another preview of the championship game a few months later, which means anyone watching will see some of the very best high school football that Rhode Island has to offer.

Whether you’re a dedicated fan or looking to get into RI high school football for the first time, this game is a great place to start. Tune in for kickoff and get ready to see some of the best this state has to offer!

YurView will present LaSalle Academy @ Bishop Hendricken Football Friday, September 15, 2017 Live at 7:00PM ET on Cox Channels 4 and 1004.

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