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Experience, depth could lead to success for Mars

| Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012, 8:06 p.m.
Christopher Horner
Mars will have a three-year starter in quarterback Owen Nearhoof, who participated in the Pitt 7-on-7 passing camp in June. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Christopher Horner
Mars running back Jason Lozzi. Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review

Last year at this time, there was considerable concern about the inexperienced offensive backfield at Mars High School.

But players such as quarterback Owen Nearhoof and running back Jason Lozzi blossomed, and Mars made the WPIAL playoffs for the seventh consecutive season.

This year, with 18 starters returning, coach Scott Heinauer is faced with the task of finding playing time for the 68 players on the roster — the largest turnout of Heinauer's 20-year tenure.

“We have a lot of depth; that's the strong point of our football team,” Heinauer said.

Competition for playing time will be the biggest factor for the Planets early on.

“I spoke to the kids at the start of camp and said if you're a starter, there's not a large gap between the guys who play and the guys who will back up,” Heinauer said. “Competition will make a better football team and you can't rest on your laurels.”

One key person Heinauer does have to replace is kicker Ryan Gralish, one of the top players at his position in the WPIAL. Gralish, now at Lafayette College, was an effective weapon on placements, kickoffs and punts.

“Matt White will take Ryan's place,” Heinauer said. “We put him in some game situations last year. He's gotten stronger and will be a good addition for us.”

Sophomore Jake Rosswog will back up Nearhoof, and sophomore Josh Schultheis will see action at tailback behind Lozzi.

On defense, twin brothers Alex and Chris Smith will lead the secondary at safety. On the line, all-conference selection Jack Mettus is back, along with nose guard Chris Panza.

Jacob Wright and Garrett Ashbaugh will be at cornerback while Connor Biggs and Billy Schrock are set at linebacker.

Mars will get a severe test opening night against Franklin Regional, returning to the Greater Allegheny Conference after a two-year absence.

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