This is one in a series of articles previewing Butler County high school football matchups this weekend.
Like the vast majority of WPIAL football teams, Hampton and Mars will not get a breather from conference play this season.
Both teams have seven games on their schedule, all of them coming against Class 4A Greater Allegheny opponents.
They will begin that journey against each other Friday night when the Planets play host to the Talbots with a 7:05 p.m. kickoff at the Mars Athletic Complex.
Mars has defeated Hampton 10 straight times, including last year's 27-7 decision. The Talbots finished the campaign with a 2-8 record and missed the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.
But Planets' coach Scott Heinauer believes the Talbots are a much-improved team.
“They were a young team last year and have a lot of people coming back, more than we do,” he said. “They did well in their scrimmage with Fox Chapel last weekend, scored three or four touchdowns.
“They run an offense that's similar to our Wing-T and use a lot of motion.”
The level of success Hampton attains this season will be due in large part to the play of 5-foot-11, 155-pound junior quarterback Matt DeMatteo, who took over as a starter last year for the injured Ian Andersson. The former passed for 413 yards with four touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
“He was thrown to the wolves last year,” Hampton coach Jacque DeMatteo said of his son. “Hopefully, it will lead to him being more poised. He's a good athlete, but has to take better care of the football.
“We came out of our scrimmage healthy and overall, I was pleased with the effort and execution.”
Mars is also hoping to see strides from its quarterback, junior Quinn Fuller, who threw for 515 yards, five TDs and five INTs in 2019.
Other skill players for the Planets will include star fullback Teddy Ruffner (over 1,900 yards and 25 TDs last year), wingbacks Anthony Vargo and Ben Chizmar and tight end Chris Dvorak. Jacob Wooldridge and Evan Thompson will split duties at wide receiver.
Ruffner rushed for 133 yards and a touchdown last year against Hampton, but Heinauer hopes to see balance from his offense.
“We need to throw the football and Quinn's experience from last year will be big,” he said. “We can't rely solely on Teddy. Passing the ball will open up running lanes for him.”
The Eagle sports staff's third season of Upon Further Review, a weekly show discussing Butler County area high school football, can be viewed on the Butler Eagle Sports Facebook page.