Injuries, lack of depth proved costly for Hampton football

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Thursday, October 24, 2019 | 3:53 PM


As the Hampton football team looks back on its season, it might think about it as a wasted opportunity — but that doesn’t mean the team didn’t give its best.

What started out as a promising year turned sour for the Talbots (2-5, 2-7) in middle of the season, when injuries piled up and depth issues reared their ugly head.

A six-game nosedive kept the Talbots from achieving a playoff spot that originally looked promising.

Less than two months ago, Hampton was fighting North Hills for first place in the Class 5A Northern Conference. But a loss to the Indians, followed by two consecutive close losses — a 16-13 setback at Fox Chapel and a 21-17 loss to Kiski Area — ultimately doomed a team that has struggled to keep up since the six-class expansion nearly four years ago.

“We knew those were very winnable games,” said senior running back Josh Andersson, whose hopes of having a senior year to remember with brother Ian at the helm were dashed when the latter sustained a season-ending shoulder injury midway through the season.

“We needed to win them to put ourselves in the best position, and we knew after that the schedule got tough. The guys’ confidence was a little low. We tried to keep it up. We just wanted to keep playing and have fun.”

The team was further depleted after losing senior running back/linebacker Max Smith to a knee injury. Wideout Gage Galuska and Will Schuitt were sidelined in and Oct. 18 matchup with Penn Trafford, leaving Hampton without its top two wideouts. The team dressed fewer than 30 players.

“It just seemed like at the beginning we had injuries, but people were able to fight through,” junior lineman Dawsen Dietz said. “We were able to fight through and win a couple games. But as the season went on, people were getting injured and not able to come back. That’s when it seemed to take a turn for the worse.”

From injury comes opportunity, and sophomore quarterback Matt DeMatteo took advantage of his, giving the Talbots a head start to knowing who their signal-caller will be going into next year with a full offseason of first-team reps. Entering the final game against Mars, he was 32 of 83 for 356 yards, including three touchdowns and eight interceptions.

“He’s definitely stepped up for only being a sophomore,” Dietz said. “He’s picked up the slack and is looking good for next year. It’s good to have him this year get some experience for next year and the year after.”

Dietz helped pave the way for a Hampton rushing attack that was formidable. Luke Lindgren has 200 carries for 902 yards and Andersson has 63 carries for 410 yards to form a strong 1-2 punch that has helped to keep many games close.

The team was hoping to play spoiler against rival Mars in the season finale.

“We’re always excited to play Mars,” Andersson said. “They’re our rival. I think just going into it knowing it’s one of our last chances. Seniors it’s our last and juniors, the last of the season. So we’re just going into it and going to have fun.”

The team will turn its attention to becoming a more cohesive unit next season if it avoids the injury bug. Potential realignment could help Hampton, as well.

“We’re going to be a lot younger next year,” Dietz said. “So we’re going to have to work hard over the summer to work well together. Just have a better relationship with the other players when there’s more underclassmen playing next year.”

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