Some of the Mars football players sat on a curb outside of their locker room Friday night eating sandwiches.
They must have had a big appetite considering they had spent the previous few hours sandwiching Highlands.
Sparked by excellent line play and an opportunistic offense, Mars went on the road and earned a dominant, 39-0 win against Class AAA No. 5 Highlands.
Mars controlled the line of scrimmage, holding a 250-114 edge in total yards. Of the Planets' six touchdowns, four came on drives that began in Highlands territory, and another came on a punt return.
"We capitalized on all the things we needed to capitalize on," Mars coach Scott Heinauer said. "We had good field position. We had good special-teams play. That's very important for us."
It was an important Greater Allegheny win for defending conference champion Mars (3-1, 3-1), which has won three in a row since losing its season opener against Franklin Regional. Highlands (3-1, 3-1) had shut out Franklin Regional a week earlier, but the Golden Rams whiffed on its chance to take control of the conference. Mars, Highlands and Franklin Regional are tied for first place.
"They beat us in every aspect of the game," said Highlands coach Sam Albert, whose team was looking for their first 4-0 start since 2008. "That may be the worst football game we've played ... ever. We didn't do a thing on either side of the ball."
Heinauer's tune, as expected, sounded a bit different.
"This is the best game we played," he said. "Fortunately, we're getting better and better. I think this score says a lot about our football team. We've got a long way to go, but we're headed in the right direction."
Mars was headed in the direction of the Highlands end zone all night long. The Planets weren't flashy, but they were methodical and effective. They rushed for 154 yards and completed three passes for 96 yards.
Mars had touchdown drives that started at the Highlands 40, 34, 13 and 23.
Just as he did in a 55-6 win a year ago against Highlands, Mars' Josh Schultheis scored three touchdowns. Schultheis had touchdown runs of 1, 2 and 3 yards, and has 10 this season.
Schultheis and Highlands' Elijah Jackson entered the game tied for second in Class AAA with 520 yards rushing. Schultheis finished with 17 carries for 77 yards; Jackson had 14 carries for 59 yards.
Mars made a statement on its first possession of the game, going on a 10-play, 65-yard drive that was capped by Schultheis' 1-yard scoring run on fourth-and-goal. Mars ran the ball each play and its size and strength advantage was evident.
"We're weren't just going to let them push us over," Schultheis said. "We had to come out and smack them in the mouth, instead of them doing that to us like they did to Franklin Regional."
The Mars defense, led by 6-foot-3, 370-pound nose tackle Marshall Robinson, limited Highlands to less than 3 yards per carry. Highlands completed two passes. One went for no gain and the other ended in a 2-yard loss.
"He's a big guy. He can do damage. He's a difference maker," Heinauer said of Robinson.
Mars led, 19-0, at the half, after Ori Rinaman scored on a 12-yard run and Travis Ganter returned a punt 43 yards for a touchdown.
Schultheis scored two second-half touchdowns and Matt Parrish summoned the mercy rule after scoring on a 2-yard run with 9:17 left in the fourth.