Content courtesy of the Trib HSSN:
As the football program inches through the summer months, Hampton is looking for the sort of gradual improvement that often takes patience.
Sometimes, the patience of someone who loves football in June waiting for fall.
“This is a large group of seniors,” coach Jacque DeMatteo said. “I think the key is each year the state has changed this (alignment) we have improved each and every year. That’s something I’d like to see us continue to do.”
Four years ago, Hampton was coming off a playoff season in Class 3A. The team had made the quarterfinals. But the state realignment was not kind to the Talbots.
Some opponents are nearly double the enrollment of Hampton. But after a winless season two years ago, success has been building. The team won two games each of the past two years, and could easily have doubled that total last year with a few close losses.
“The numbers are pretty solid right now,” said DeMatteo, who noted the team has remained steady at around 55-60 participants. “We have some kids that have come out that haven’t played before, so it’s nice to see some new faces.”
As the team pushed through its offseason workouts, Hampton’s identity as a run-first team can’t be fully realized without linemen and pads.
“Right now, it’s more about passing, seven-on-sevens,” DeMatteo said. “You never get a true sense of what our identity would like to be, which is to run the ball. We work on it, but like I said, you go through conditioning and weightlifting, work hard, and that’s what I appreciate at this point.”
The running back picture looks deep, as the Talbots have a large stable of capable ball carriers. Last year, Clarion commit Vince Schmidt showed bursts of strong performance but was hampered by injury.
This year the group has plenty of depth, including Josh Andersson, Max Smith, Ben Horvat and Sean McLaughlin. Luke Lindgren and Joey Liberto will look to fill the role at fullback.
“They have good chemistry,” DeMatteo said. “They are competing against one another, but they’re a tight-knit group. They play lacrosse and other sports together so it’s good to have a group of solid backs to rotate, because they’re going to have to play two ways.”
Josh Andersson’s brother, Ian, will look to step in where their older brother Ross left off at quarterback.
“This year, we’re focusing on changing the culture,” said Ian Andersson, who added the team is getting a new field and new uniforms, which helps bring a different vibe. “I know the past couple of years have been tougher for us.”
“He had some reps last year,” DeMatteo said of Andersson, who backed up now-graduated Max Obenrader. “He’ll be the guy that will be our starting quarterback at this point, and we’ll see how that develops.”
Andersson comes from a strong family bloodline. His brother, Ross, was a three-year starter at quarterback for the Talbots and now plays defensive back at Johns Hopkins. Both Anderssons are intent on playing after high school as well, along with many of the other upperclassmen.
“I think we have a bunch in these two classes that are looking to play in college,” Andersson said. “So I think that common love for the game is really important. In years past, that may have not always been the case.”
That passion, coupled with a strong bond, is why things could be different this year, even if the new uniforms are months from getting dirty.
“I’ve just noticed that this senior class and the junior class, it’s the strongest connection I’ve seen between any back-to-back class,” Andersson said. “We’ve always had a great deal of success, and ever since high school we haven’t. So what we all have in mind is trying to change that.”