WPIAL New Castle snuffed in 17-0 playoff loss
The Red Hurricanes were held by Hampton to 38 total yards and two first downs.
By ERIC POOLE
HAMPTON TOWNSHIP, Pa. -- When the WPIAL playoff pairings were announced last Monday, the Hampton Talbots, one of only two unbeaten teams in Class AAA, were seeded fifth.
"It wasn't a disappointment of who we were playing, because once you get this far, they are all good teams," said Hampton coach Greg Mihalik. "The disappointment was hearing comments like, 'You've got to prove yourself.'
"How much more can you prove yourself than being 9-0?"
Make that 10-0.
Hampton used a stifling defensive performance to defeat New Castle 17-0 Friday in the opening round of the WPIAL playoffs.
Held in check: The Talbots held the Red Hurricanes to 38 yards total offense. New Castle (5-5) managed only two first downs, one coming on a pass interference penalty late in the fourth quarter.
"Their defense dominated our offensive line," said New Castle coach Gary Schooley. "We made some errors, but I don't like criticizing our players. They gave a great effort."
Hampton was especially proficient at shutting down the Red Hurricanes' option attack. The Talbots continually forced New Castle quarterback Russ Relic to hold the ball, resulting in losses. Relic finished the game with minus 3 yards on 15 carries.
"We struggled the last couple weeks trying to stop the option," said Mihalik, the nephew of Slippery Rock University football coach George Mihalik. "We basically put in a whole new offense.
"We didn't do much blitzing tonight. We just let our kids sit back and react."
Solid defense: New Castle also played solid defense, holding Hampton to 222 yards total offense, 93 on the ground.
"I was proud of the way our defense played," said Schooley. "They came out and held their ground."
It took until the 9:54 mark of the second half before Hampton finally broke onto the scoreboard with a 27-yard field goal by senior Ryan Daniel, who also narrowly missed three 44-yard attempts and put all four of his kickoffs inside the New Castle 10-yard line.
Lights go out: After an exchange of punts, two penalties were called on an incomplete pass by Relic. Before the referees could pick up their flags, the stadium lights went out.
When play resumed about 15 minutes later, the Talbots turned out the lights on the Red Hurricanes' season. Both penalties -- holding and intentional grounding -- went against New Castle.
On the first play after the lights came back on, Joshua Shulman partially blocked a punt by New Castle's Allen Billyk, giving Hampton the ball at the Red Hurricanes' 49. Five plays later, fullback Ben Szelong scored from 1 yard out, giving Hampton a 10-0 lead.
In the third quarter, Talbots receiver Brandon Rakszawski made a juggling catch of a tipped ball for a 31-yard touchdown to finish the scoring.
Next game: The Talbots advanced to a quarterfinal encounter with defending Class AAA champion and state runner-up West Allegheny and its quarterback, University of Pittsburgh recruit Tyler Palko.
"We were pretty much a junior-dominated team," said Schooley. "That's one positive thing we can build on for next year. I feel bad for the seniors, but they have nothing to be ashamed of. They've represented this program well for four years."