Hampton football takes huge step forward

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Saturday, November 7, 2020 | 11:01 AM


Hampton senior lineman Dawson Dietz stood along a chainlink fence at Aliquippa’s Carl Aschman Stadium, wearing a muddy uniform and a smile.

“It was so exciting to go from two wins for the last three years (to the playoffs),” he said. “It’s crazy to be able to be here and compete with a real good team. It was a lot of fun.”

Dietz and the Talbots know they could have played better in their 31-0 loss to No. 1 Aliquippa on Oct. 30 in the opening round of the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs.

But after going 0-10 in 2016 the year before the seniors arrived, followed by three consecutive 2-8 seasons, the Talbots (5-3) ended a covid-shortened season with a playoff berth and an experience to remember.

“It was definitely exciting, and I’m glad I got to experience it my senior year, especially going to the Pit,” wingback/linebacker Gage Galuska said. “Everyone makes such a big deal out of it, how it’s such a historic place.”

It was the first meeting between the two schools, at Aschman Stadium, the 92-year-old venue nicknamed “The Pit” and carved into a hillside above downtown Aliquippa. The stands were only about one-third full on a cold, clear night in Beaver County because of covid restrictions, but the Talbots played on real grass and mud — a rarity these days — and witnessed the Quips’ pregame tradition of an Indian mascot on horseback, impaling a flaming spear at midfield.

“I’ve never,” Dietz said, “had that experience before a game.”

Four first-half turnovers — all of which led to touchdowns — ended any hopes of an upset, but the Talbots defense denied Aliquippa on a pair of first-half, fourth-down attempts and stymied the powerful, speedy Quips (8-0) in the second half.

“No one wants to lose in the playoffs,” junior quarterback Matt DeMatteo said. “But we gave it our best effort against a very good team, so we can’t complain too much.”

Coach Jacque DeMatteo lauded the work of the senior class during a year unlike any other. The season-ending loss to an Aliquippa program that has made 12 consecutive WPIAL title-game appearances was just the final chapter.

“The body of work that these kids have done over the course of this season has been phenomenal,” the 13th-year coach said. “Each and every day. First of all, trying to be covid-free, trying to adhere to all these restrictions, like every other program, it’s not easy. But the senior leadership was phenomenal. I’m really going to miss this group of seniors.”

Joining Dietz and Galuska in their final game at Hampton were RB/LBs Joe Liberto and Conrad Harold, OL/DLs Ryan Mankevich and Zachary Reese, WR/DBs Colin Murray and Nick Schwartz and LB Aidan Camerota. Other contributing seniors were Anthony Bishop and Luke Santorello, along with Andrew Lusebrink and Brennan Fitzpatrick, who each missed the season with injuries.

“These seniors were great leaders the entire season,” Jacque DeMatteo said. “They did everything we asked them to do. They made it enjoyable to come to practice. They were very coachable. If the underclassmen didn’t pick up anything there, shame on them.”

Hampton junior running back Jacob Premick learned a lot. Premick, who left midway through the fourth quarter after a violent tackle by Aliquippa’s 6-foot-1, 205-pound linebacker Anthony Jackson, said he felt OK after the game. Premick broke free for a 30-yard first-half run to highlight the Talbots offense.

“I’ve been really close with the seniors and seeing as it’s their last game, it’s kind of sad,” Premick said. “I love those guys.”

Other top returning players for next season include DeMatteo, RB/LBs Christian Liberto and Jayden Resch, OL/DLs Michael Bagley, John Morris and Logan Schwartz and sophomore WR Benny Haselrig. They will be joined by an infusion of talent from a junior varsity team that went 7-0 this season and posted four shutouts.

“From now on, we’ve just got to do what we need to do to get better,” Premick said. “We took quite a big step from last year to this year. But next year we will come out stronger. I know we will.”

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