Gorman: This clash of Titans, Planets will be out of this world
A word to the wise for those planning on attending the WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinal game between Mars and West Mifflin at Fox Chapel:
“If you're a fan,” Mars coach Scott Heinauer said, “you better get there in time for kickoff.”
This one won't last long.
“I guess everyone will be getting home early,” West Mifflin's Ray Braszo said with a laugh, knowing there won't be many incompletions to stop the game clock.
This clash of the Titans and Planets promises to be out of this world, at least in terms of modern-day high school football offenses.
They are both 9-1 while relying almost exclusively on the run. In the first round, Mars rushed for 363 yards and passed for none in a 45-21 victory over Blackhawk, while West Mifflin ran for 336 yards and passed for 4 yards in a 28-14 victory over Knoch.
“He's a lot like me. That's what Ray likes to do: He likes to run the football, and we like to run the football,” Heinauer said. “You're not going to see a West Coast, five-wide offense. That's not going to happen here. Neither of us run that style. Maybe it's because we're old-school.
“In Western Pennsylvania, you've got to be able to play good defense and run the football, especially in November.”
In the era of new-age offenses ranging from the spread to the read-option, Mars and West Mifflin are throwbacks to the days of Darrell Royal and Bud Wilkinson running attacks at Texas and Oklahoma that relied upon deception and misdirection.
“As far as doing traps and pulling guards, we do a lot of things alike,” Braszo said. “In a lot of ways we're similar, except we're more of an I-formation Veer and mid-line option team and they're a Wing-T with split backs.”
Where Mars rides the legs of a 1,600-yard rusher in sophomore Josh Schultheis, West Mifflin senior quarterback Derrick Fulmore and junior tailback Jimmy Wheeler split the load. Against Knoch, they combined for all but 2 of the Titans' rushing yards.
However, Heinauer and Braszo designed their schemes not to suit their stars but rather the front five who blocks for them.
“It probably suits our players' abilities more than my coaching style,” Heinauer said. “We don't have kids who are 6-foot-4, 260 pounds. We feel we can get angles. That's why we run the Wing-T. People don't see that a lot. It's like that Veer. People don't see that triple-option a lot.
“That's why we've stuck to what we've always done. It gives our kids opportunities. We've always had a running back who can step up and gain yards. Our goal is to give our back a crease so we can get to the secondary and go from there.”
And West Mifflin has had a string of speedy quarterbacks, which is why Braszo borrowed from Nebraska's I-bone offense that allows him to feature Fulmore.
“We're trying to incorporate different runs for him,” Braszo said. “A lot of people are doing it with spread. We just do it in a conventional concept.”
Or an unorthodox one, depending on whether you love to let it fly or are a fan of relying on the run.
Either way, don't be late.