Hampton football opens up passing attack

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Saturday, September 24, 2022 | 11:01 AM


The Hampton football team has gone airborne this season.

One year after mashing opponents with a pair of 1,000-yard rushers, the Talbots have unveiled a potent passing attack under first-year coach Steve Sciullo.

“We came into the season with the goal to pass more,” said senior quarterback Joey Mayer, who left the Talbots’ 38-0 victory over Kiski Area on Sept. 16 with an arm injury. “We have a lot of different formations this year that help us pass more. … We work on it a little more in practice than we used to last year. We have a whole session dedicated to passing this year.”

Mayer opened the season by throwing for 227 yards and four touchdowns in a 48-0 victory over Knoch, earning him Pennsylvania high school football player of the week honors by Pennlive.com in statewide voting by fans.

“He’s done a good job of managing our game and making plays,” Sciullo said of Mayer, “and that’s what he’s in there to do.”

But Mayer might not be in there for a while.

The 5-foot-11, 170-pound dual-threat QB suffered a dislocation while being tackled during a designed run midway through the second quarter against Kiski Area in the Greater Allegheny opener.

Mayer, who doubles as an all-conference defensive back, laid on the turf in obvious pain and was tended to by Hampton trainers for about 10 minutes before heading to the sideline. Junior Adrian Midgley took over at quarterback, tossing a 28-yard third-quarter TD pass to senior Benny Haselrig in the rout. The extent of Mayer’s injury was uncertain as of Sept. 19.

Hampton’s favorite target is Haselrig, who has 16 receptions for 262 yards and six touchdowns through four games for the Talbots (2-2, 1-3 as of Sept. 22). Haselrig’s six TD receptions ranked tied for third in the WPIAL after four weeks.

Haselrig, a two-time first-team all-Greater Allegheny wide receiver, had four receptions for 115 yards and two touchdowns in the opener against Knoch and added four catches for 70 yards and three TDs against Kiski Area.

“I definitely like getting more touches,” Haselrig said. “Last year, I can’t complain. We won every (regular-season) game. As long as we keep winning, however many touches I get is all right.”

Senior wide receiver Eric Weeks has been another big-play threat — when healthy. He caught three passes for 104 yards and two long TDs against Knoch but tweaked his knee in the first half of the Week 2 loss to Shaler and sat out the Sept. 9 game against defending PIAA Class 3A champion Central Valley, a 48-9 loss. Weeks was back at practice the following week and played against Kiski Area.

Sciullo is devising ways to highlight Haselrig and Weeks.

“We have two pretty good receivers that I think are two of the best in our league,” Sciullo said. “Benny and Eric are fantastic, and I have to get the ball to those two kids. They are getting it on jet sweeps. They are getting it on screens. They are getting it on go routes. They are getting it on every way we can get it to them. … They are big plays waiting to happen.”

The ground game that powered last year’s conference championship run is still effective.

Junior running back Brock Borgo, who rushed for a season-best 174 yards on 22 carries against Kiski Area, is on pace for his second consecutive 1,000-yard rushing season.

Prior to his injury, Mayer had already thrown for nearly twice as many yards this season (429) as all of last season (226), when he split time with now-graduated Matt DeMatteo. The Talbots threw for 515 yards as a team in 12 games last season, going 11-1. Through four games this season, they had already passed for 460 yards.

“I just feel like this year we have the athletes to pass more,” Weeks said. “Our offense kind of shapes around our passing game more. Last year we were more of a beatdown team with big guys up front and we just pounded the ball. This year we are out making plays.”

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