For experienced, hungry Hampton, the time is now
Friday, August 16, 2019 | 11:06 AM
The last time Hampton made the playoffs, an Andersson was at the helm. This year might be the team’s best chance yet to get back, and coach Jacque DeMatteo hopes having two Anderssons in the backfield will help.
Ross Andersson last took a snap in the second round of the WPIAL playoffs as sophomore in 2015. Now he is a sophomore at John Hopkins. His twin younger brothers, Ian and Josh, will be major contributors to a senior-laden team looking to end its losing ways since the six-class realignment of 2016. The team has four total wins the past three seasons.
“I like the flow of practice, and I’m really excited right now,” said DeMatteo, who enters his 12th year at the helm.
The team has been re-invigorated with a new turf field and uniforms.
“That stuff helps those material types of things,” he said. “But, honestly, it comes down to the number of seniors we have. They’re a close group of kids, play multiple sports. It seems they know and feed off each other. They all get along. There are no egos whatsoever. I really love where they’re at. Their work ethic is really good, and they just make it fun to be around.”
Senior Ian Andersson will be hoping to take the next snap as a Hampton quarterback in the playoffs. He succeeds Max Obenrader, who led the team in rushing and passing last season. DeMatteo has a large stable of backs in his wing-T offense and doesn’t expect a repeat of that type of statistic.
“He has the ability to run if need be, but he’s not going to be that running quarterback as in the past. We have two wings and a fullback, so we’re protecting him. So it’s a little bit different style this year. But he’ll still have that ability on certain reads.”
The enthusiasm has been building around this senior class of 15 for some time. Likewise, most positions are filled with experienced players on both sides of the ball. Junior Dawson Dietz leads the offensive and defensive lines.
“This team I’m playing with now I’ve been playing with since I was 5 years old,” he said. “It’s going to be cool to have a whole starting team that I’ve played with my life. … Our team is full of upperclassmen. It’s going to be great to see everyone (on the line) knows how to block and knows what they’re doing up front”
Strong blocking and technique are paramount up front in DeMatteo’s offense, which is run-heavy. Inexperience in the past against larger Class 5A squads not only has limited the push and holes it can create, but also has led to penalties that have put the team behind the sticks. Ian Andersson brings a little bit of everything to the table as the quarterback.
“He’s deceptively fast and has a high football IQ. Just the quality of leadership, as all Anderssons do,” the coach said. “He’s athletic. He just has that ability within him to manage the offense.”
He will have plenty of players who can carry the ball, including brother Josh and seniors Max Smith and Luke Lindgren.
“I think that’s where our strength is, and that’s why we’re in the wing set,” DeMatteo said. “I think we can run the ball really well. I feel good with the starters (on the offensive line). We really need to bring along guys behind them for depth.”
While Josh Andersson said it will be “really cool” taking handoffs from his twin brother, he really wanted to talk about his backfield teammates.
“Luke is a natural runner,” he said. “Last year, he played tight end, and I think he’s just really excited and motivated to play. And Max has been a running back his whole career, so he has a lot of experience. I’ve played a lot of different positions. I think we are all just athletes.”
Hampton also replaces its top two receivers, Brandon Sickles and Brandon Stephany. But DeMatteo likes his wideouts, which include CB/WR Will Schuit and junior Gage Galuska, who was a WPIAL-qualifying sprinter in track.
One thing noticeably different from years past is the passion many of the players have for playing football after high school. That sort of love for the game can re-invigorate a team looking to change its culture.
“In the past, you could maybe count on one hand, maybe one or two people that had a desire to play football no matter what level,” DeMatteo said. “This group here seems to be more than a handful of guys that want to play at another level, whether it’s at a D-II or D-III school.”
Defensively, the team speed will be strong. Younger players such as MLB Jayden Resch, who saw time as a freshman, already are broken in. The team showed flashes in losses last year: 3-0 to North Hills and 24-14 to eventual WPIAL runner-up West Allegheny.
“I think we’re all a little more experienced than last year,” Josh Andersson said. “We don’t have big bulky guys, but we’ll be able to run sideline to sideline and make plays.”
While Talbot teams in the past have been lauded for strong effort — often against rosters that nearly double them in size — the messages from the coaches and players dictate a feeling of urgency to win this year.
“We’ve had some moral victories over the past couple of years,” DeMatteo said. “I’ve seen improvement. But I want those moral victories to turn into victories. We just keep focusing each day we come in, working hard and getting better, I like our chances.”
Dietz shares that sentiment.
“I feel like this might be a great season for us,” he said. “The attitude is there and everyone is just excited to play and wants to win really bad.”
Coach: Jacque DeMatteo
2018 record: 2-8, 1-6
All-time record: 309-371-21
Date, Opponent, Time
8.23, at Knoch, 7
8.30, at Armstrong*, 7
9.6, Shaler*, 7
9.13, at North Hills*, 7:30
9.20, Fox Chapel*, 7
9.27, Kiski Area*, 7
10.4, at Penn Hills*, 7
10.11, at West Allegheny, 7
10.18, Penn-Trafford, 7
10.25, Mars*, 7
*Class 5A Northern Conference game
Passing: Max Obenrader*
77-137, 997 yards, 6 TDs
Receiving: Brandon Sickles*