HAMPTON TWP — The disappointment was evident on the faces of the Mars players and coaches as they left the locker room at Fridley Field in Hampton Friday night.
Only a cinder-block wall away, the joyous Talbots were celebrating their undefeated regular season.
It didn't take long for the Fightin' Planets' campaign, which included just one victory on the field, to come to a crashing halt in the Talbots' 48-14 victory.
One play after Mars attempted a surprise — and unsuccessul — onside kick on the opening kickoff, Hampton quarterback Matthew DeMatteo took off on a keeper 68 yards down the left sideline only 16 seconds into the game.
Mars punted during its first possession and two plays later Hampton running back Christian Liberto started his big night, finding running room up the middle for a 37-yard touchdown. Only two more minutes had elapsed.
Mars punted the ball away again and three minutes later DeMatteo passed 31 yards to a wide open Michael Witherup. That put the Talbots up 21-0 with 6:22 still remaining in the first quarter.
“Obviously we did not play well,” a dejected Planets coach Scott Heinauer said. “We need to work during the offseason. We have a lot of work to do.”
Mars finished the season 2-8 overall and 2-5 in the Class 4A Greater Allegheny Conference. Its lone victory on the field came by one point, 14-13, over Knoch, thanks to a failed extra point attempt by the Knights. The other came when Plum had to forfeit over its use of an ineligible player.
Hampton completed its regular season 10-0, including 7-0 in the conference. It entered Friday night as one of only two unbeaten teams in Class 4A.
“They have a good football team, there's no question about it,” Heinauer said. “Obviously, nobody in our conference was able to beat them.”
The Talbots ran the score to 28-0 with 10:42 left in the half when Jayden Resch found a hole to escape down the right sideline for 31 yards.
But Mars answered back one play after recovering a Hampton fumble. Quarterback Rafael Bartley passed 38 yards to Hayden Mayer, who grabbed the ball despite being tightly covered by a defender.
Still, the Talbots were not finished in the first half. Liberto kept piling up yardage on the ground and Logan Schwartz took it the final yard to give Hampton a 35-7 halftime lead.
Liberto finished with 196 yards on 19 carries. He compiled 1,062 for the season. Teammate Brock Borgo also amassed over 1,000 yards. His 39-yard effort Friday night gave him a total of 1,044.
Liberto had all but seven of his yards against Mars in the first half. As a team, Hampton rushed for 300 yards in the half and 430 yards in the game.
Hampton's Joseph Mayer made it 41-7, running 20 yards on an end-around play. Then, Jacob Premick, who took over the duties from the Talbots' top rushers, muscled in from 3 yards out to make it 48-7 with 3:54 left in the third quarter.
At that point, the mercy rule with its running clock went into effect.
But Mars kept at it. Bartley passed 26 yards to Hunter Hart to set up an 8-yard scoring run by Carlos Orr to cut the deficit to 48-14 with 11:03 to go.
Mars played without the services of two of its top yardage gainers, running back Evan Wright and receiver Noah Nesselroad, who were in attendance but not dressed to play because of injuries.
The Planets had little success running the ball, totaling only 32 yards on the ground. Most of their yardage came through the air with Bartley throwing for 104 yards and Hart grabbing three passes for 60.
Mars 0 7 0 7 — 14
Hampton 21 14 13 0 — 48
H — Matt DeMatteo 68 run (DeMatteo kick), 11:44
H — Brock Borgo 37 run (DeMatteo kick), 9:41
H — Michael Witherup 31 pass from DeMatteo (DeMatteo kick), 6:22
H — Jayden Resch 31 run (DeMatteo kick), 10:42
M — Hayden Mayer 38 pass from Rafaekl Bartey (Eli Wright kick), 3:55
H — Logan Schwartz 1 run (DeMatteo kick), :06
H — Joseph Mayer 20 run (kick failed), 6:33
H — Jacob Premick 3 run (Borgo kick), 3:54
M — Carlos Orr 8 run (wright kick), 11:03
Rushing: Mars, Rafael Bartley 8-13, Finn Seideneck 13-(-3), Casrlos Orr 1-8, Ryan McGee 2-11. Hampton, Christian Liberto 19-196, Jacob Premick 11-68, Matthew DeMatteo 4-61, Brock Borgo 5-39, Michael Morgano 4-39, Joseph Mayer 5-35, Jayden Resch 1-31.
Passing: Mars, Rafael Bartley 5-14-104-1, Luke Goodworth 2-4-8-1. Hampton, Matt DeMatteo 1-2-31-0, Joseph Mayer 2-2-10-0.
Receiving: Mars, Hunter Hart 3-60, Hayden Mayer 1-38. Hampton, Michael Witherup 1-31.