Gino Caesar, fellow running backs ready to guide Hempfield to success

Tuesday, August 16, 2022 | 3:27 PM

Gino Caesar still has the game ball from the night nobody could stop him.

“My mom is going to get some stats engraved on it,” the Hempfield senior running back said. “My confidence really went up after that game.”

Hempfield fans were yelling, “Hail, Caesar,” when he carried 39 times for 215 yards in a 30-28 win last season over visiting Franklin Regional. He had 175 yards on 17 attempts in the second half.

“We were down at halftime and coach (Mike Brown) pulled aside the line and running backs,” Caesar said. “He pointed to me and said, ‘Do you want to see him go?’ It was like being in a zone.”

Brown is doing the same thing this season as a much deeper Spartans team ventures into WPIAL Class 5A for the first time.

It’s time to see him go again.

“He wanted the ball that night,” Brown said. “We gave it to him.”

Spartan Stadium could turn into Caesar’s Palace on select Friday nights as the tailback charges up the running game.

“He has gained weight and he’s a lot stronger,” Brown said. “He is everything you want. He works hard and shows up every day.”

Caesar ran for 716 yards and four touchdowns on 166 carries last season. Brown said he wanted to “run him until he tapped out.”

“He never tapped out,” Brown said.

With 87 players, Hempfield has big numbers as it cuts loose from the rigors of Class 6A. More localized matchups will now exist — conference games against Penn-Trafford, Franklin Regional, Norwin and Plum over previous ones against North Allegheny, Central Catholic, Seneca Valley, Baldwin and others.

“As a team we’re going to have a great season,” Caesar said. “Things are so different here from when I started out as a sophomore. There is a difference in the culture. Kids want to put in the work and win.”

Brown hopes to squeeze as much production and leadership out of Caesar — and his seniors — as possible.

“He’s become a vocal leader, too,” Brown said. “He is willing to step up and take that role. Actually, we have 11 guys who can handle that role. We don’t really have a captain. It would be a disservice to have four when we have 11 of them.”

Caesar (5-10, 200) will lead the way, but the Spartans won’t be a one-man show offensively behind senior quarterback Jake Phillips.

Senior Eli Binakonsky (6-1, 210) and sophomore Ethan Zontek (5-10, 189) also should see reps out of the backfield.

Caesar and Binakonsky have taken several fishing trips together this summer. He doesn’t expect many defenders to catch and release the two of them as a tandem — or Zontek, for that matter.

All three will fit into an equally imposing linebacker rotation.

“It will be nice to have that rotation so I don’t always have to play both sides of the ball,” Caesar said.

Brown likes the potential power running game his team possesses with the trio of backs.

“They’ve all got power,” he said. “With our depth, we should be able to move them in and out. If he’s fresh, we’ll ride with him.”

A tattoo on his right bicep reveals some of Caesar’s motivation. It is marked with his late grandparents’ initials.

“They died four years ago before they got to see me play,” Caesar said. “I wished they were still here. I want to play for them.”

Hempfield opened camp Monday. The Spartans open the season Week Zero, Aug. 26, at crosstown rival Greensburg Salem.

“We have put in the work,” Caesar said. “Now we have to go out and put it together.”

Bill Beckner Jr. is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Bill by email at or via Twitter .

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