Hampton determined to build on playoff season
Friday, August 20, 2021 | 6:01 AM
Hampton all-conference wide receiver Benny Haselrig played last season with the letters “IWNBD CH” written on his wrist tape.
The cryptic message stood for “I Will Not Be Denied — Carlton Haselrig,” a tribute to Benny’s cousin, the former NCAA wrestling champion and Pittsburgh Steeler who died in July 2020 at age 54.
Carlton Haselrig, the former Pitt-Johnstown great, had written those words on a steamy bathroom mirror the day of the 1987 NCAA Division I wrestling championships, and Benny remembered him with an abbreviated version.
After reaching the WPIAL playoffs last season for the first time since 2015, the Talbots once again are determined to not be denied.
“Last year was definitely a confidence-booster since we have so many returning players,” said Haselrig, a junior who last season caught a team-high 21 passes for 309 yards to earn first-team all-Greater Allegheny honors. “I want us to win the section this year. We have the experience. I think if we keep working, we should win it.”
Hampton is aiming to take another step forward in its second season in Class 4A. The Talbots went 5-3 and advanced to a first-round playoff date at Aliquippa after going a combined 6-34 in four seasons as a 5A school.
“We have high expectations,” said coach Jacque DeMatteo, entering his 14th season at Hampton. “We feel good going into the season. If we stay healthy and they stay humble and hungry and they keep working and they keep acting the way they have all summer, things will be good.”
The Talbots return seven starters on offense — senior quarterback Matt DeMatteo; last year’s leading rusher Jake Premick; running back Christian Liberto, Haselrig and three offensive linemen, Michael Bagley, John Morris and Logan Schwartz.
On defense, linemen Logan Rutledge and Schwartz, linebackers Jayden Resch and Liberto, and defensive backs DeMatteo and Haselrig return.
“We are going to be better than last year,” Schwartz said. “We are ready. We’re bringing back 17 seniors. … We’ve all been playing for a while. We have a nice chemistry. Everyone is working hard.”
One priority is to reduce turnovers. Matt DeMatteo, who will be a third-year starter, completed 41 of 98 passes for 588 yards last season but struggled with 12 interceptions against only three touchdown passes. DeMatteo is one of the school’s top all-around athletes. He was a first-team all-conference selection at kicker, an all-section guard in basketball and a PIAA track qualifier in three events.
“He’s got to take care of the football,” Jacque DeMatteo said of his son. “It’s his job. He’s just got to make better decisions and after being a three-year starter his decision-making ability has to be a lot quicker, a lot sharper.
“I’m confident that he will do that. He’s a kid that competes in three different seasons in three different sports. He’s had success. He needs to take that success and run with it. … He just has to trust his natural ability and his instincts like everyone else does and go out there and not think he has to do the whole thing all by himself.”
Rutledge, who will start at left tackle, is confident the Talbots’ offseason workouts and strong team chemistry will translate into another WPIAL playoff berth. He said they are hungry for more success.
“It just feels good to be finally winning … and finally not be the worst team in the conference,” Rutledge said. “We have a great group here. All of our seniors are very hard workers and great kids. I think we have something special on this team right here.”
Coach: Jacque DeMatteo
2019 record: 5-3, 5-2 in Class 4A Greater Allegheny Conference
All-time record: 316-382-21
Date, Opponent, Time
8.27 at Valley, 7
9.3 at Fox Chapel, 7
9.10 Shaler, 7
9.17 Armstrong*, 7
9.24 at Highlands*, 7
10.1 Greensburg Salem*, 7
10.8 at Plum*, 7
10.15 Indiana*, 7
10.22 at Knoch*, 7
10.29 Mars*, 7
Passing: Matt DeMatteo
41-98, 588 yards, 3 TDs, 12 INTs
Receiving: Benny Haselrig
21-309, 2 TDs
Rushing: Jake Premick
73-501, 3 TDs
• Hampton won five games last year — despite having two games canceled in a covid-abbreviated season — after winning only six games in the previous four seasons combined.
• Hampton graduated three first-team all-Greater Allegheny Conference defenders: Tackle Dawson Dietz, linebacker Gage Galuska and defensive back Colin Murray.
• Sophomore Liam Mignogna, one of the school’s top basketball players, is trying organized football for the first time. The 6-foot-8 Mignogna will play tight end.
More Football• Gateway seniors sign on to continue football careers
• Pine-Richland’s Ryan Palmieri joins teammate in committing to Sacred Heart
• Plum’s Moore-Watkins, Thomas sign on to continue football careers
• Ohio-bound D.J. Walker, 5 other Aliquippa seniors make college commitments official
• High school sports notebook: Ex-Hempfield, Jeannette football assistant heads to Central Catholic