There's been no place like road this season for the Hollidaysburg Area High School football team in 2013.
After going winless away from home last season, the Golden Tigers are 2-1 when playing outside the friendly confines of Tiger Stadium this season following a 50-point demolition of Derry last Friday. That's something that first-year Tiger coach Homer DeLattre sees as significant.
"Going on the road in [the Greater Allegheny Conference] is difficult. The travel's a little bit longer than normal travel. To get off a bus after two and a half hours and play well says a lot about your kids and it says a lot about your program in general," DeLattre said.
If the Tigers can continue their success as visitors this week it not only will say a lot about the team, it will even Hollidaysburg's overall record, push it over .500 in the conference and set it up well in its pursuit of a postseason berth.
The caveat is the Tigers have to do it in Allison Park against a Hampton team that is red hot and on a three-game winning streak. Kickoff on Friday night is scheduled for 7 p.m.
The Talbots are 3-2 after having dispatched Knoch in a hard-fought game last week. Knoch won a nail-biter in Hollidaysburg two weeks ago.
Game: Hollidaysburg Golden Tigers (2-3) vs. Hampton Talbots (3-2)
Where: Fridely Field, Allison Park
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
The coaches: Hollidaysburg - Homer DeLattre (54-67, 12th year); Hampton - Jacque DeMatteo (59-76, 13th year)
Series record: Hampton, 1-0 (first met in 2012)
Last meeting: Hampton, 28-14 (Oct. 5, 2012)
"They are very opportunistic. They capitalize on the other team's mistakes," DeLattre said of the Talbots. "They do a very good job with turnovers. When they get turnovers, they turn them into scores."
The game should be a good measuring stick for Hollidaysburg. The Tigers are coming off their most impressive win of the year, rolling up more than 300 yards in total offense and holding a plus-3 turnover advantage in the 57-7 victory at Derry. However, Derry has lost all five of its games this year by 50 points or more.
Still, DeLattre was pleased.
"We got good play in all three phases. We were able to run and throw the ball, we were able to score on defense and we were able to score on special teams, as well," said DeLattre, who had six different players find the end zone, including Greg Dinges and Reid Miller twice apiece. "We'd been inconsistent in one phase or another in each of the [previous] games. We played all three phases more consistently."
Despite Miller's 98 yards rushing, DeLattre's only gripe was that he wanted to see a more dominating performance up front. The line should get some help this week when senior captain and two-way starter Reid Brinkhoff returns from suspension along with starting quarterback Josh Bickley, although DeLattre listed linemen James Patterson and Michael Roberts as injury question marks early in the week.
DeLattre's big concern this week is to limit Hampton's opportunities. The Tigers have held three of their first five foes to fewer than 275 yards and only turned the ball over six times this year. Those numbers will be put to the test by the Talbots.
"Turnovers are the biggest key. We can't have fumbles. We can't have quarterback-center exchange issues. We can't throw interceptions. We can't make mistakes on special teams and turn the ball over with bad snaps and other things," DeLattre said. "We have to limit yards after the catch, because they have a way of getting behind the secondary."
Talbot quarterback Nick Grabowski has completed 53 of 100 throws this season for 754 yards and seven touchdowns. Jon Floss has 20 receptions for 309 yards, while Eddie Edwards has 18 catches for 298 yards. C.J. Arch, who didn't play early in the year, provides the bulk of Hampton's ground attack with 324 yards on 74 rushes.
Hampton won 28-14 in Hollidaysburg last year on its way to a 7-3 finish, but that was a senior-oriented Talbot team. Two of Hampton's best underclassmen didn't come out this year to focus instead on basketball, and the team started the season with losses to Indiana and Highlands.
"The first two games we turned the ball over seven times. It just came down to the fundamentals," said Hampton coach Jacque DeMatteo, the Clearfield product who played his college ball at Clarion with DeLattre's friend, Damon Mazoff. "We just kept focusing on ourselves, doing the same things in practice. Then things started clicking a little bit. All that contributed to the turnaround."
DeLattre thought this would be a big game three weeks ago and it might be even bigger now.
"It's a must-win for us, really," DeLattre said. "We don't want to be in a position where we go into the playoffs as a 16th seed. We want to win games."