Mars football runs past Elizabeth Forward in 1st round
Mars did what it does best and ran the ball to a 38-21 victory over Elizabeth Forward (6-4) on Friday in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs.
Senior Josh Schultheis, the WPIAL's fourth-leading rusher, finished with 19 carries for 100 yards, and Jason Lozzi added 88 on 11 carries to lead the Planets offense. They ran for two scores each.
“We all had our share of the ball this game, and that's how it should be,” Schultheis said. “You share the love, and that's how it works, and it worked out great (Friday).”
The Planets (9-1) rode an eight-game winning streak into the playoffs, but the first-round win was different than the rest.
“It's not just another win,” Schultheis said. “It's ‘guys, we're in the playoffs. We're moving on to Week 2, and Heinz Field is in sight.' That's the ultimate goal.”
Although Mars finished with a three-score win, it took a dominant second half to put away the Warriors.
Trailing 21-13 at the start of the second half, Elizabeth Forward drove 80 yards on 11 plays, including a 54-yard catch-and-run on a pass from Jaquan Davidson to Matthew Bernadowski, for a touchdown. After Davidson scored on a 4-yard plunge, the dynamic senior found Brandon Barr in the back of the end zone on the 2-point conversion to tie the game 21-21.
“We were calm at halftime. We knew what we needed to do,” Mars coach Scott Heinauer said. “Our kids came through when they needed to come through, and we felt our backs against the wall a little bit.”
The Planets answered right back with an 8-yard touchdown from Lozzi, capping an eight-play, 60-yard drive. Mars led the rest of the way.
“Mars played as a team, and they wanted it more than us, I think, in the second half,” Davidson said. “That's why they came out with the victory and are heading to the second round of the playoffs.”
Davidson, a Pitt recruit, gave his team a scare when he came off the field late in the second quarter after an apparent neck injury on a quarterback-sneak attempt. He returned for the second half.
“I just blanked out real fast,” Davidson said. “But I got back in. My team needed me.”
Davidson finished 9-of-22 passing for 154 yards and added 80 yards rushing on 23 carries.
The Planets will face Central Valley in the next round of the playoffs, and Heinauer knows his team will have to be at its best if it want to advance.
“We have to play better,” he said. “We had one turnover and a couple untimely penalties. If we can not have that, I think we'll be in the ballgame against Central Valley.”
Gary Horvath is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.