North Xtra: Mars Area's success is on the line
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Mars Area football coach Scott Heinauer is up front when he talks about one of the keys to his team's success.
The Planets (3-0), the Post-Gazette's third-ranked team in WPIAL Class AAA, have rushed for nearly 1,000 yards after three games, and it's the guys on the offensive line who have been leading the way.
"An experienced line is a major factor," Heinauer said. "All those kids have a lot of game experience up front. We run the wing-T and the biggest factor is having that experienced line.
"We don't have that 6-foot-4, 250-pound lineman who can drive you off the ball. We don't have those kids here. But our kids have a lot of confidence."
One of the leaders on the line is right offensive tackle Connor Biggs, a 6-foot, 225-pound senior. Also on the line is center Jackie Mettus (6-1, 220), left guard Austin Bitzer (5-10, 205), left tackle Joe Grice (6-1, 285) and right guard Cole Horan (5-10, 210), all seniors.
The Planets rotate linemen throughout the game, Heinauer said, with juniors John King (6-1, 210) at guard and Joel Glomb (6-1, 235) at tackle among those getting plenty of playing time.
"Our kids do a lot of combinations up front. We give them a lot of freedom up front to do what they need to do," Heinauer said. "This is what you need to do, and however you need to do it, you do it. Ever since our coaching staff has gotten here, that's what we've done. Our kids are experienced and it's easy to coach people with a lot of experience."
Running back Josh Schultheis had another big game running behind his line Friday night, rushing for 211 yards on 22 carries with two touchdowns in a 40-6 Greater Allegheny Conference win against Indiana. The Planets offense has scored 117 points this season, tied for second most in Class AAA.
In the victory against Indiana, however, the Planets had two interceptions and turned the ball over three times on fumbles.
"We have high expectations here at Mars and we're not going to bend," Heinauer said. "We don't accept [turnovers] as common behavior. That's something that you can't do against a good football team. We usually take care of the football, but you're going to have football games like that."
Mars' next game is 7 p.m. Friday when it welcomes Highlands (0-3) at Planet Stadium.
In what had a billing as a quarterback showdown between Northern Eight Conference leaders, North Allegheny continued its mastery of Seneca Valley by disposing of the Raiders, 45-3.
Seneca Valley catalyst Jordan Brown, who had quarterbacked the Raiders to a 2-0 record and a No. 5 ranking in Class AAAA by the Post-Gazette, was held to 9 of 21 passing for 96 yards. Meanwhile, North Allegheny quarterback Mack Leftwich was 8 for 16 for 137 yards, leading the top-ranked Tigers offense to 403 yards.
With the loss, the Raiders have now lost 11 in a row to North Allegheny.
Seneca Valley takes a break from conference play Friday night when it welcomes Connellsville at 7:30 p.m. at Nextier Stadium, while North Allegheny travels to Pine-Richland Stadium to take on the Rams in a Northern Eight battle at 7 p.m.
It's just a few weeks into the season, but Butler Area will actually have a meaningful game Friday night.
Longtime non-participants in the postseason picture, the Golden Tornado will travel to Martorelli Stadium to take on North Hills in what could help define the Northern Eight playoff picture down the line.
Butler (2-1) is tied with Seneca Valley for third place in the conference standings, but the Raiders already have beaten the Tornado. North Hills follows both teams in the standings at 1-1.
Trailing Butler and North Hills in the standings are Pine-Richland, Shaler and Fox Chapel. Butler already has beaten Pine-Richland and Shaler, and Fox Chapel is winless.
No matter how you cut it, Saturday's 62-8 victory against Geibel will go in the books as the first football win in school history for Vincentian, which is fielding a football team for the first time.
It must be noted, though, that Geibel forfeited its first two games due to lack of players, had barely enough players to take on Vincentian and lost its coach earlier in the week when Sean Benjamin resigned because he didn't believe the Gators should continue the season.
First Published September 20, 2012 12:00 am