‘Challenging’ season ends with Hampton football on wrong side of playoff tiebreaker

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Sunday, November 5, 2023 | 11:01 AM


The Hampton football season began with an injury and ended with an insult.

The Talbots lost their starting quarterback to a season-ending knee injury in training camp and then narrowly missed the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs on a tiebreaker.

“It was definitely challenging,” second-year coach Steve Sciullo said. “We can’t change what happened. But we can get better for the next run. That’s what we’re going to do.”

Needing a victory to clinch a postseason berth, the Talbots lost to Highlands, 42-26, in the regular-season finale Oct. 27 to finish 3-3 in the Greater Allegheny (3-7 overall) and part of a three-way tie with Kiski Area and Highlands for the conference’s final two playoff spots.

The initial three-way tiebreaker for third place went to point differential, with Kiski Area (minus-1) advancing ahead of Hampton (minus-5) and Highlands (minus-11). Highlands then won the tiebreaker for fourth place based on its head-to-head victory over Hampton, which saw its three-year playoff streak snapped.

“It hurt a lot,” senior two-way lineman Gabe Gannelli said. “We were all thinking this would never happen. We had such high expectations.”

The course of the Talbots’ season changed when senior quarterback Adrian Midgley suffered a torn ACL in the opening days of training camp. Hampton turned to Porter Kelly. The 5-foot-7, 145-pound junior showed some promise. He passed for 223 yards and three touchdowns in a victory over Armstrong and 142 yards and two TDs in a narrow loss to Connellsville. But the passing game struggled, as Kelly finished 58 for 117 for 828 yards with eight touchdowns and six interceptions.

Defensively, the Talbots gave up 34.3 points per game and held only one team (Indiana) under 26 points. They allowed 55, 45, 43 and 42 (twice) points in losses.

Senior running back Brock Borgo was the bright spot for the Talbots, who started 0-3 but won midseason games over Kiski Area and Armstrong to stay in the thick of the playoff race.

Borgo finished with 1,157 yards and 14 rushing touchdowns on 225 carries, his third consecutive 1,000-yard season. He finished with 3,340 career rushing yards, ranking among the all-time leaders in program history. Borgo added a team-high 26 receptions for 373 yards and four TDs.

Borgo worked behind an offensive line anchored by senior two-way starters Nate Glock, Gryffin Keller, Brady Long and Gannelli. The seniors provided leadership for the young team.

“They were phenomenal for us — leadership and on-the-field play,” Sciullo said. “They stepped up and kept everything together. I can’t say enough about them. … It could have been easy to fold.”

Said Gannelli, “The circumstances we had this year … it was just unfortunate, to say the least.”

Other departing seniors are HB/LB Seamus McLaughlin, long snapper Braeden Ballintine and kicker Luke Fiscus.

Gannelli, who is considering college offers for football and lacrosse, said the younger players need to remember the feeling of missing the playoffs and work harder next season.

“I think this is a wake-up call for the young kids,” Gannelli said. “We tried to preach it to them as much as possible. … Some people didn’t really live up to the expectations and didn’t really buy into the culture and really want it. We tried and tried and tried to get them on the same page and build them up and teach them, and we really couldn’t do anything else at that point.”

Joining Kelly as returning players are juniors Ray Kirsopp (WR/OLB), Josh Carr (WR/CB), Austin Williams (OL) and Carson Potter (ILB) and sophomores Willy Haselrig (WR/DB), Evan McAneny (CB), Jack Halli (S), Brody Junker (ILB), Jack Shaughnessey (QB), Logan Grondwalski (OL) and Jonovan McKelvey (OL).

The Talbots will also welcome an influx of talent from a junior varsity team that went 7-3. The JV squad topped Mars (26-18), routed Highlands (50-0) and Connellsville (42-0) and played tough in tight losses to Central Valley (32-22) and Shaler (23-20).

Sciullo said the experiences of this year will harden his young players, and he is encouraged for this offseason.

“It’s tough when you are 3-7, but at the same time, we are playing for important things there at the end of the year and that’s what we want to do,” he said. “Obviously, we would have rather won those late games. But that’s life. You have to be able to pick up the pieces and fix what you can for the next year and get better.”

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