Move to Class 4A feels like perfect fit for Hampton

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Wednesday, September 2, 2020 | 10:54 PM


Dawson Dietz says it’s a perfect fit.

After several seasons competing as one of the smallest teams in Class 5A, Hampton dropped down to Class 4A, and it landed among similar programs in terms of both size and geography.

“Mars Week 1, that’s going to be the most exciting game of the year,” said Dietz, one of several returning starters and an anchor on the offensive and defensive lines who earned second-team all-conference honors last year at defensive tackle.

“It’s going to be televised. They are our biggest rival right now. That’s going to be super exciting.”

Coach Jacque DeMatteo hopes the conference is not the only change for a program that hasn’t been to the WPIAL playoffs since 2015 when it made the Class AAA quarterfinals.

“The last two years, we felt we belonged and made improvements,” he said. “We were really close in a number of those games.”

Last year, the Talbots started 2-1 with wins over Armstrong and Shaler, but they lost their last seven while battling through adversities, including injuries to several key seniors. Numerous underclassmen were able to get their chance, and the hope among the team members is that it will pay dividends in 2020.

“The younger kids really benefited from the experience and playing time,” senior wide receiver and defensive back Gage Galuska said. “That gave us a lot of energy going into the offseason to build on things. Whether it’s been with the coaches or doing things on our own, getting groups of guys together at the field, we’ve been able to stick together.”

Hampton will play a seven-game, conference-only schedule that begins with the Planets on Sept. 11.

“We’ve been practicing like there’s nothing different and are practicing harder than I can even remember in the past couple of years. We have the mindset of being prepared for anything and everything,” Dietz said.

The season slate also features matchups against Armstrong, Highlands, Greensburg Salem, Plum, Indiana and Knoch.

“It is a very challenging conference,” DeMatteo said. “All of the teams are well-coached with their Division I players. It’s nice we won’t have to drive all over the place to find good, solid competition. We’re going to have to get our confidence back, play hard, play well and stay healthy.”

DeMatteo said he appreciates the attitude of the players in their season preparation.

“When we’ve been able to do stuff and get after things, we’ve really made progress,” he said. “Hopefully, the younger kids who got a chance to play can show that experience this year. I like where we’re at, to be honest, with some nice senior leadership. We have a lot of kids with grit and tenacity who just want to go out and play football.”

Matt DeMatteo, a senior, was thrust into the starting spotlight at quarterback last year after Ian Andersson went down to an injury against Fox Chapel in Week 4.

“Matt was kind of thrown into the fire, but he gained a lot of confidence,” Coach DeMatteo said of his son. “Now, he needs to take it to another level, make good decisions with the ball and run with authority.”

The Talbots had to say goodbye to two-way starter and 1,000-yard rusher Luke Lindgren, but Galuska, the team’s leading receiver last year, is back with Dietz to help form the team’s core with fellow returnees in seniors Ryan Mankivich (offensive line/defensive line), Nick Schwartz (wide receiver/defensive back) and Joe Liberto (running back/linebacker) and juniors Christian Liberto (running back/linebacker), Logan Schwartz (offensive line/defensive line) and Jayden Resch (running back/linebacker).

Mankivich was selected all-conference honorable mention at offensive guard last season.

“Our one coach (Ron Budziszewski) has really been using the saying, ‘Tomorrow isn’t promised,’” Galuska said. “That has helped to remind us to give everything we have each day, no matter if it’s in football or not. We have a lot of dedicated guys on this team, and I think it will help us to do big things.”

Schedule

Coach: Jacque DeMatteo

2019 record: 2-8, 2-5 in Class 5A Northern Conference

All-time record: 311-379-21

Date, Opponent, Time

9.11, at Mars*, 7

9.18, at Armstrong*, 7

9.25, Highlands*, 7

10.2, at Greensburg Salem*, 7

10.9, Plum*, 7

10.16, at Indiana*, 7

10.23, Knoch*, 7

*Class 4A Greater Allegheny Conference game

Statistical leaders

Passing: Matt DeMatteo

37-96, 413 yards, 4 TD

Receiving: Greg Galuska

23-286 yards, 2 TDs

Rushing: Luke Lindgren*

224-1,042 yards, 5 TDs

*Graduated

Fast facts

• Hampton has won just six games the past four seasons.

• The Talbots suffered three- and four-point losses to Kiski Area and Fox Chapel, respectively, last year. The outcomes were crucial in the competitive playoff chase in the Northern Conference.

• The Hampton running game averaged 198.3 yards last season.

• Hampton has had just two head football coaches since 1997. DeMatteo enters his 13th season, and his predecessor, Greg Mihalik, coached the Talbots for 11 seasons.

Michael Love is a Tribune-Review Staff Writer. You can contact Michael by email at mlove@triblive.com or via Twitter .

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