Hampton holds off Plum in WPIAL Class 4A 1st round, stays unbeaten
Friday, November 5, 2021 | 10:46 PM
The No. 4-seeded Hampton Talbots remained perfect, but they used an imperfect performance to stay that way.
The Talbots (11-0) overcame turnovers and penalties to edge a spirited Plum team 14-13 on Friday night on a late touchdown in the first round of the WPIAL Class 4A playoffs.
Trailing for most of the game, the Talbots took the lead on Christian Liberto’s 2-yard touchdown run and Matt DeMatteo’s extra point with 2 minutes, 57 seconds to play.
The score capped a nine-play, 82-yard drive that began with 6:48 to play after Talbots defensive back Joey Mayer intercepted a Sean Franzi pass on third-and-10 deep in Hampton territory.
No. 13 seed Plum (3-8), which had lost to Greater Allegheny Conference foe Hampton, 35-7, on Oct. 8, saw its final chance at the upset end when Franzi’s fourth-and-15 pass from the Hampton 43 fell incomplete with 14 seconds to play.
“I can’t be more proud of these kids,” Plum coach Matt Morgan said. “They fought, scratched, clawed, backs against the wall. I don’t think anybody expected this but us, and that’s how we like it. We knew we could win this ballgame, and we just fell a little bit short.”
Hampton, only five years removed from an 0-10 season, earned a WPIAL quarterfinal date with defending PIAA champion Thomas Jefferson (8-2), a 41-0 winner over Indiana, on Oct. 12 at a site and time to be determined.
Hampton was the only WPIAL school with multiple 1,000-yard rushers this season, but leading rusher, sophomore Brock Borgo, sat out after being injured last week against Mars.
Instead, Hampton leaned on Liberto, the team’s other 1,000-yard rusher. The senior gained a game-high 142 yards on 23 carries, including eight carries for 57 yards on the go-ahead fourth-quarter drive.
Plum took a 7-0 lead on Franzi’s 44-yard touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Samo Pitt with 10:40 to play in the second quarter. The TD came one play after Plum recovered a fumble by Hampton’s Mayer.
Hampton tied the score at 7-7 on Liberto’s 6-yard touchdown run with 7:31 to play in the first half.
But Plum regained the lead on the first play of the third quarter on a 57-yard touchdown pass from Franzi, who completed 9 of 15 pass attempts for 180 yards, to senior wide receiver Logan Brooks. Hampton’s Gabe Gannelli blocked Angelo Baleno’s extra point, however, and the score remained Plum, 13-7.
Hampton’s winning drive came after Mayer’s interception snuffed a 14-play Plum drive that had eaten nearly nine minutes off the clock.
Hampton attempted only one pass all game, a 14-yard completion in the first quarter, and finished with 52 carries for 275 yards.
The loss ends an up-and-down season for Plum. The Mustangs started 0-5, including a 29-0 victory over Mars that later became a forfeit loss because an ineligible player was used. But Plum went 3-2 down the stretch, overcoming a 13-point deficit to edge Greensburg Salem, 30-27, in Week 10 to reach the playoffs for the second straight year.
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