North Xtra: Hampton opens in fine fashion

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After each week of the high school football season, the contenders and pretenders start to take shape.

After Week 1, one of the more impressive performances was turned in by the Hampton Talbots. They throttled Albert Gallatin in a Class AAA non-conference game, 55-0, on the road.

"Obviously, starting 1-0 is a good start for the kids, but there is always stuff to improve upon," said Jacque DeMatteo, in his seventh season as Hampton's head coach. "They are working hard and it is paying off for the kids. We are just trying to improve each week. The competition is getting harder each week."

Against the Colonials, the Talbots were hitting on all cylinders, starting with the opening kickoff.

"First of all we are very fortunate," DeMatteo said. "They were injured but our special teams set the tone early on. Our defense played exceptionally well and our offense was able to move the ball. We had a tailback by committee and it worked out. When you can win and not have any serious injuries and have a lot of kids play, as a coach you feel good about that. I just enjoy seeing these kids have fun."

The near flawless performance was led by senior quarterback Nick Grabowski. Grabowski accounted for three touchdowns, one through the air and two on the ground.

"We don't have a quarterback, we just have running backs," DeMatteo said jokingly. "We call our receivers wide blockers and we just have running backs. We just have a philosophy to run the ball and be a physical team. We just want to grind at you and hopefully it will work to our advantage."

Grabowski is in his second year leading the Hampton offense and has shown his coaches and teammates what it takes to be a leader. Although DeMatteo has confidence in anyone he puts out on the field, he knows a heavy load of the team's success lies on Grabowski's shoulders.

"It is huge," DeMatteo said. "That is your commander in chief in charge. When you have that experience, that always helps. You could see his maturity from last year to this year in last Friday's game. He was managing the game and it was evident."

The Talbots will need to continue to improve as they begin play in a new-look Greater Allegheny Conference on Friday.

"Really no reaction," DeMatteo said about the realignment. "That isn't something that I can control. I just focus on who we play next, which is Indiana. Their offense is challenging for the defense.

"[Teams in our] conference are always well-coached and have good talent."

On paper the conference seemed to take a leap forward with the addition of Gateway. As for Indiana, Hampton's next opponent, that is a team with whom the Talbots are familiar.

The Talbots are looking to get their conference season off to a 1-0 start and avenge last year's 33-7 loss to the Little Indians.

"It is definitely an important game," DeMatteo said. "To start 1-0 in your conference, your confidence grows. They are a good team. If you can beat a good team in your [conference] opener, it puts your confidence up.

"It is one game and we still have a long season ahead of us. I really like the demeanor of our team and I hope we can work and continue to improve. I like our chances. I like our physicality and that is something you can't really coach."

The physicality, demeanor and senior leadership are key ingredients to what the Talbots hope will be the end to their playoff win drought. The seniors have not experienced success in the playoffs, going one-and-done the past two years.

"Getting to the playoffs is always our goal," DeMatteo said. "We have to take care of business before we get to that point. Each week is a new season for us. We would like to cement our spot in the playoffs and not just limp in and I think we are capable of doing that."

THE GAME

Game: Hampton vs. Indiana.

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

Where: Hampton's Fridley Field.

Skinny: After winning their opener, a non-conference victory against Albert Gallatin, the Talbots hope to keep rolling.


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