Mars' Wing-T intact despite graduation loss
By Justin Criado
Published: Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013, 8:55 p.m.
Quarterback Owen Nearhoof could care less who is tabbed as the Greater Allegheny Conference preseason favorite. He knows what he and his Mars teammates have to do to repeat last year's conference championship performance.
“We're not worried if we're marked No. 1 (in preseason polls),” Nearhoof said. “We're worried about working hard right now. There's definitely a little bit of a different feeling that we're the champs.”
Mars' stiffest competition will be old foe Franklin Regional, which rejoined the conference last year after a two-year absence, only to finish second to the Planets.
“Franklin's definitely going to want us bad for beating them last year,” Nearhoof said of last year's 21-17 victory over the Panthers. “Everyone wants to come back and get you since we beat them last year.”
Mars lost 22 players to graduation, including all-conference performers Connor Biggs, Austin Bitzer, Jackie Mattus and Alex Smith, but coach Scott Heinauer sees it as business as usual and welcomed 70 players to camp, the most in his 22-year tenure.
“That's the ups and down of high school football,” Heinauer said. “Sometimes, you're going to be senior-heavy.”
The core of Mars' Wing-T attack is intact, though, with backs Josh Schultheis and Jordan Lozzi, along with three-year starter Nearhoof. Last year, the Planets racked up 3,210 yards rushing, good for fifth in the WPIAL. Junior Schultheis recorded 1,687 yards and 27 scores.
“Josh is a monster,” Nearhoof said. “I'm so confident in having him right behind me in the backfield.”
This year, offensive linemen John King, Trevor Heyl and Gabe Spurlock look to fill starting roles. Travis Ganter and Ori Rinamon will see more passes at wide receiver.
“For us to be successful, those kids have to step up,” Heinauer said.
One key player returning is all-conference punter/kicker Matt White, who averaged 38 yards per punt and landed 80 percent of his kickoffs in the end zone.
“He's a big factor,” Heinauer said. “A lot of people overlook kickers.”
Defensively, King, Heyl and Spurlock will hold the line. Lozzi and Schultheis will play linebacker as Ganter, Rinamon and White line up in the secondary.
The Planets won't have to wait long for the highly anticipated matchup with Franklin Regional. The Panthers come to the Mars Athletic Complex on Aug. 30.
“It doesn't matter if you lost half your team. You have to play the season anyway,” Schultheis said. “Expectations are just as high as they were last year.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Central Catholic prepares for St. Joseph’s physical, skilled offense
- South Fayette hopes for better result than 2010 PIAA Class AA final
- Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic sees a little of itself in Old Forge
- Gateway football to join AAA ranks
- Kiski Area lineman commits to Dartmouth
- Shady Side Academy gridders earn conference honors
- High school notebook: Gateway football falls to Class AAA based on new PIAA enrollment figures
- Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic dominates Clarion in PIAA semifinals
- Friday’s PIAA semifinal football games postponed