East Xtra: Hempfield's DeFloria delivers on field

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When it comes to multi-tasking, Hempfield Area's Joey DeFloria can do it with the best of them.

DeFloria, a 5-foot-11, 185-pound senior running back, fills a lot of roles for the Spartans football team.

DeFloria's ability to play running back, catch passes out of the backfield, return kickoffs, punt the ball and play defense fits that description well.

You might even say he's the centerpiece of the team.

"He's a game breaker," Hempfield coach Rich Bowen said. "He can score from anywhere on the field."

In the Spartans' 28-7 victory against Latrobe last Friday, the versatile DeFloria accounted for two-thirds of the team's 346 yards. He had 134 yards rushing, 89 yards receiving -- 76 of those came on one play for a touchdown -- and he also chipped in 8 yards on a punt return.

"He's an explosive player," Bowen said. "Anytime he touches the ball he is going to make something happen. Whether it's between the tackles, out on the edge, or on special teams, he makes plays for us."

On the opening-night loss against McKeesport, DeFloria had 328 all-purpose yards with 167 gained off kickoff returns. For the season he has gained 251 yards rushing on 36 carries.

Bowen also said DeFloria is inserted into a special nickle package on defense where he plays linebacker.

"I don't try to do too much," DeFloria said. "My job is not to be the whole team, but to make plays and do what I can and get a win for the team. As far as punting, it was originally added to incorporate fakes and pose a threat in the punting game, but now I'm doing a good job at punting."

As important as DeFloria is to the team, Bowen said a "total team effort" goes into every practice and into every game.

"Joey is absolutely important to our team," Bowen said. "He's a legit 4.40 [time in the 40-yard dash] guy and a gifted athlete, but without the kids around him doing well, that decreases our chances of winning."

Great responsibility is placed on this senior running back who said he has to "catch his breath every once in a while," but said he does everything he can to stay on the field unless he's too winded.

"You have to be conditioned in this offense," DeFloria said. "We have a very conditioned team that went through a tough conditioning program over the summer. We just have to keep pushing each other."

When DeFloria is on the field, it often ensures team success. Hempfield got off to a solid 3-1 start last season with DeFloria rushing for 418 yards and eight touchdowns before he missed the rest of the year with an arm injury.

The Spartans went 1-5 the rest of the way. DeFloria also missed four games as a sophomore with a high-ankle sprain.

"I've put those injuries behind me," DeFloria said. "I try not to think about it, that's the last thing I want to think about. When I'm on the field, I'm thinking about making plays and thinking about how to get this win."

After securing its first win of the season against Latrobe, Hempfield has its sights set on the Connellsville Falcons (0-2, 0-2) this Friday at Spartan Stadium.

"Last week was a big win over Greater Latrobe, but Connellsville is also a good opponent," Bowen said. "They haven't won a game, but they move the ball well and have an explosive offense. From what I see, they had penalties or turnovers at inopportune times. They lost to a good Gateway team and a good Kiski team."

Both Kiski and Gateway are 2-0.

Football isn't the only sport in which he stands out. He's also an excellent baseball player. He helped the Spartans baseball team go 20-5 last season, finishing third in the WPIAL,

Bowen said DeFloria is "one of the better baseball players in the area" but DeFloria, who plays center field, said he's focused on football right now.

"I'm torn between the two," he said. "I love football when I'm playing football and I love baseball when I'm playing baseball. I haven't decided yet what I'll do in college."


Kelton Brooks; kbrooks@post-gazette.com


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