New linemen stepping up for Mars
TribLIVE Sports Videos
Mars believes it can make it as far as its legs can take it.
Last year, the Planets used a strong running game to reach the WPIAL Class AAA football quarterfinals. The squad racked up 3,210 yards (291.8 per game) in 11 contests.
Through its first five games this fall, Mars was slightly ahead of that pace with 1,463 yards (292.6 per game). That may not seem like a big deal since the Planets have been a run-based team for years. However, the team's success on the ground has been a positive sign since it graduated all but one starter on the offensive line.
“We're moving the football. That's something that's capable of our football team. Our kids understand that,” Mars coach Scott Heinauer said. “We have a whole new offensive line, and I think that the kids are jelling. The kids have done a great job up front.”
Senior right guard John King was the lone returning lineman for the Planets. Senior tight end Nolan Skirtich, senior right tackle Joel Glomb, senior center Robb Miller, left guards Trevor Heyl (junior) and Hunter Cooper (freshman) and junior left tackle Gabe Spurlock have been called upon to pave the way for the Planets.
Junior Josh Schultheis rushed for 1,687 yards a year ago. He collected 746 through the team's first five games. Quarterback Owen Nearhoof and running back Jason Lozzi also returned to the Planets' backfield.
“Those kids up front are talented and have done a great job so far this season, but I think it helps to have veteran guys running the ball, too,” Heinauer said. “Before the season, we talked to Jason, Josh and Owen and told them they'd have to be patient. The holes weren't going to be there like last year. Those kids knew what to do on every blocking scheme we had. We told them just to be positive and stay positive and things will work out. That's literally what happened.
“Having some good running backs and a quarterback who can do different things makes the (linemen) believe. They may not throw the best block every time, but when you have running backs and a good quarterback, they can make you look better than you are and they can make you believe.”
That certainly helped ease some of the line's pressure while it had time to get acclimated. But the Planets struggled in a 20-13 loss to Franklin Regional to open the year. After that defeat, Mars won its next four games.
“Hat's off to Franklin Regional, but our kids regrouped and fought back and have gotten better each week that we play,” Heinauer said. “That's only the way we'll be able to move the ball and throw the ball.”
The Planets experienced similar changes on the defensive side of the ball, where they had to fill some holes. John Castello, Nate Sablowski, Marshall Robinson, Gabe Spurlock, Matt Parrish, Lozzi, King and Schultheis have solidified the team's defensive front. Mars allowed 11 points per game to its first five opponents.
“Our defense has played pretty well. I think it's getting comfortable with what's going on,” Heinauer said. “We always put some wrinkles in there, but it's pretty much the same thing. You can only call so many plays. The more people throw at us, the better the kids are able to adapt.”
Joe Sager is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.
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.
- South Fayette, Aliquippa form unique traditions for Thanksgiving Day
- Gorman: Look out for unsung hero
- HS highlight reel: Winter season set to tip off Dec. 4
- TJ-Central Valley football powers to clash at Heinz Field
- Schleicher connects for 1,210 regular-season passing yards for Baldwin
- Ligonier Valley bows out of football playoffs
- Jeannette two-way star Sanders has Jayhawks back at Heinz Field
- Franklin Regional football team ends its season one win short of Heinz Field
- Through the Years: Leechburg, Oakmont won WPIAL titles a half-century ago
- HS highlight reel: WPIAL runners named to all-state teams
- Jeannette football prepare for Class A championship game