Hampton marches into WPIAL football playoffs

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Saturday, October 30, 2021 | 11:01 AM


Each Saturday morning, the Hampton football team gathers for its weekly film study to break down the previous night’s game.

After a quick workout, the players settle in, munching on bagels and other food, to watch the replay.

So far it’s been two thumbs up.

“It’s a different mood this year when we walk into film (study),” senior quarterback/defensive back Matt DeMatteo said. “We’re all excited to get in there. … Obviously, there are some mistakes to be corrected, but coaches are really proud of us this year. It’s a good time on Saturdays, and then we get back to work on Monday.”

Bouyed by a ground attack averaging 339 rushing yards per game, the Talbots are putting together one of the best seasons in program history.

Hampton’s 30-0 win at Knoch on Oct. 22 clinched the Greater Allegheny title, only its fourth outright conference crown, joining 2014, 2001 and 1988.

The senior-heavy Talbots entered Week 9 as one of only 11 undefeated teams in the WPIAL and the 12th-highest scoring team among 118 in the league, averaging 37 points per game.

“We knew we had a good group coming up, and the fact that we dropped down (to Class 4A) is nice, too,” said Talbots offensive coordinator Steve Sciullo, a former NFL offensive lineman. “They all work hard together. They hit the weight room on their own time. They are dedicated to being good, and it’s paying off on the field.”

Hampton (6-0, 9-0) was scheduled to play host to last-place Mars on Oct. 29 as it sought only the second perfect regular season in school history (‘01). The Talbots were set to learn their opening playoff opponent when the WPIAL brackets were scheduled to be released Oct. 30. Barring a top-three seed, they will host a WPIAL Class 4A playoff game Nov. 5 at Fridley Field as part of the 13-team bracket.

Hampton snapped a four-year playoff drought last season, losing at Aliquippa, 31-0, in the opening round. But the experience served as the jumping-off point for a strong offseason and carried over into this season. The Talbots won their first two games by a combined score of 92-13 and haven’t slowed down.

“We wanted to build upon some of the success we had last year,” coach Jacque DeMatteo said. “Playing Aliquippa in the playoffs, we came out of the game feeling that we belonged and we could play. The kids put in a ton of work in the offseason. And I just think with the senior leadership and the maturity that we have, and coming out of the gates fast, the confidence grew fast.”

Hampton sophomore running back Brock Borgo surpassed 1,000 rushing yards in the victory over Knoch, and senior running back Christian Liberto (145-866, 13 TDs) is also on pace to reach the milestone.

Borgo entered the Mars game with 1,005 yards on 88 carries and ranked among the WPIAL leaders with 16 rushing TDs. Four players have 100-yard games this season, and all told, the Talbots have rushed for 3,055 yards and 38 touchdowns as a team.

They are working behind a quick but relatively undersized line of tackles John Morris and Logan Rutledge, guards Charlie Schuit and Logan Schwartz and center Kole Reiser, along with top reserve Michael Santorello. They are listed, perhaps generously, at an average of about 6-foot-1, 200 pounds.

“We have so much speed on our team,” Matt DeMatteo said. “We’re all fast and we get outside well. The (other team knows) it’s coming, but they just can’t get outside with us.

“We are converting on third downs, and half of our drives it’s not even getting to third down. We are grinding on teams and they can’t stop it.”

The Talbots also are taking care of the ball. DeMatteo and junior quarterback Joey Mayer have combined to complete 30 of 55 pass attempts for 454 yards with six touchdowns and one interception. Last season, DeMatteo struggled, completing only 42% of his passes (41 of 98) with three touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The shoulder injury that hampered him earlier this season is “100%.”

“Good teams don’t make too many turnovers, and that’s one thing I really wanted to focus on this year,” Matt DeMatteo said. “We really haven’t thrown it that much, but when we do, I am making sure I’m having all the right reads and finding the open man.”

The Talbot are doing a lot right. They scored 40 or more points in five games through nine weeks. Of the 21 teams in the WPIAL Class 4A, only Aliquippa (42.9) and Belle Vernon (41.9) have more prolific offenses.

“Our kids are experienced, and they don’t make mistakes,” Sciullo said. “And when they do, we have guys that turn mistakes into positive plays. When you have guys who can make plays, sometimes even their mistakes get covered up by talent. And we’ve got some talented kids.”

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