Hampton gets measure of payback against Highlands
After losing to Highlands on the last night of the regular season each of the past two years, the Hampton Talbots made sure they would take the measure of the Golden Rams this time around.
Frank Bello ran for two touchdowns, and Zac Gonzales caught a pair of scoring passes as Hampton rolled over Highlands, 35-7, Friday night at Fridley Field.
Hampton is 2-0 after beating Indiana and Highlands — two of the four 2011 playoff teams from the Greater Allegheny Conference.
“I'm very satisfied,” said Talbots coach Jacque DeMatteo. “As far as our effort and our energy in practice, the kids are playing hard and they've bought into everything we're trying to do.”
The all-time series between the schools is tied at 14 wins. Highlands (0-2, 0-2) won the coin toss, deferred to the second half and started the evening with an onside kick.
It appeared the Golden Rams had possession, but the ball was wrestled away and the Talbots were in business at midfield.
“We thought we had it,” said Golden Rams coach Sam Albert. “Then they fumbled three times in the drive and we didn't get it.”
Frank Bello ran over the right end for 10 yards and the first Hampton score with 8:18 left in the first quarter. Frank Bello scored again from 1 yard out 47 seconds into the second period. But after the score, Hampton tried an onside kick and Tony Bello recovered the ball for the Talbots.
Hampton scored four plays later on a 19-yard pass from Jon Nigro to Gonzales, and Highlands was behind by three touchdowns.
Losses the past two years that kept the Talbots out of the playoffs had no effect on Friday's game, according to DeMatteo.
“It's just another week, another chapter, and we just have to prepare each week and try to get better,” the Hampton coach said. “It had nothing to do with Highlands. We're playing well and we hope it continues.”
Andy DiMichieli concluded the first-half scoring with a 30-yard pass interception return to put the Talbots ahead, 28-0, with 1:33 to go in the second period.
“They have great skill this year, they really do,” Albert said of the Talbots. “We've got them 2-on-1 and they complete a pass for a touchdown. They're just better than us right now.”
Another factor was Ryan Luther's punting. The 6-foot-6 junior and basketball standout got off several outstanding kicks, including one pinning the Golden Rams at their 5.
Albert was happy with the play of sophomore Elijah Jackson, who rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, and Blake Leri, who passed for 84 yards and had two interceptions.
George Guido is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.