Dominance comes naturally to Demaree Hampton. A star who defies position, Hampton slides past cornerbacks on one play before plowing through linebackers on the next.
When he isn’t igniting Mission High School’s explosive offense, Hampton anchors the Bears’ defense, shifting between safety and cornerback as the team’s scheme requires. In last Thursday’s win over Lowell, Hampton scored each of the Bears’ three touchdowns – first on a grinding, twisting, goal-line run, then on a catch fading into the end zone, and finally on a 42-yard fumble recovery returned for the decisive score.
If it sounds easy, that’s because for Hampton, it is.
“There’s never really been a lot of players who could match up with me,” said the 5-foot-8 senior, who started playing football in the eighth grade. “People never know what I’m going to do next.”
What the Bears need to do next is beat Washington on Thursday to clinch a spot in the San Francisco Section playoffs. If the Bears lose, their postseason destiny will hinge on the success or failure of Lowell and Burton, as all three teams are vying for the third and fourth playoff positions. In one scenario, matters could be decided by a draw.
Hampton hopes it doesn’t come down to that.
“If we do what we need to do on defense, we’ll be alright,” he said.
Mission has already surpassed last season’s win total, but with the Bears’ playoff hopes still in the balance, coach Carl Sullivan insists that now is no time for complacency. And while he calls Hampton’s playmaking ability “awesome,” he insists that his team’s success hinges on others following their leader’s example.
“They need to have the realization that they’re expected to play as well,” Sullivan said. “I tell them, ‘If you want to stand around and watch Demaree play, then you need to come sit on the sideline with me.’”
Hampton leads the team with 35 catches for 780 yards and 11 touchdowns, as well 713 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. In both rushing and receiving yards, Hampton’s total is more than double that of anyone else’s on his team. And while most teams dream of developing both an offensive playmaker and a defensive star, Hampton fills both roles for the Bears. He leads the team in interceptions and handles punting and kicking duties.
And when the season ends, he’ll shift from the gridiron to the hardwood, where he is the reigning section basketball player of the year after averaging 24.5 points per game last season. HoopsUSA, a national recruiting service, ranks him the 370th best basketball recruit in the country. But as Hampton considers which sport to play in college, he is keeping all options on the table.
“I’ll have to talk my mom about it,” Hampton said of his decision-making process, pointing to the woman who first put a basketball in his hands when he was a toddler.
On the football field, he has given steadiness to an often unstable program. In years past, Mission has struggled to keep its top players academically eligible to play. Even this season, the Bears have had off-the-field disciplinary problems. But Hampton’s lead-by-example approach has helped the Bears remain focused.
But in Sullivan’s mind, Hampton has yet to begin tapping his potential.
“If he spends more time developing himself athletically, then the sky is the limit, as far as football goes,” Sullivan said. “Right now, he’s an exceptionally talented kid who hasn’t put a lot of effort into making himself better.”
Sullivan said that Hampton’s first destination should be the weight room. Undersized on both the football field and the basketball court, Hampton needs to bulk up to compete with college athletes who will share his athleticism, Sullivan said
But for now, there is only one focus.
“We just need to win,” Hampton said. “Just win.”