Schultheis' 2 TDS lift Planets
In a game with all the momentum shifts of a playoff contest, Mars came up with the final surge.
Josh Schultheis had 164 yards on 26 carries and scored two touchdowns, including the game winner with 5:44 to play, to give Class AAA No. 6 Mars a 21-17 win on the road over No. 2 Franklin Regional in the Greater Allegheny Conference opener for both teams.
Mars quarterback Owen Nearhoof was 7 for 13 for 106 yards and a score. Franklin Regional running back Dane Brown had 178 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries, while cornerback Charan Singh had two interceptions and a forced fumble.
Schultheis' winning score came after Franklin Regional (0-1) took its first lead of the game, 17-14, on a 26-yard field goal by Brent Velasquez. But the Planets (1-0) got a long kickoff return by Alex Smith and drove downfield with a six-play drive — all runs. Schultheis scored on a fourth-and-1 after a timeout.
“We never considered a field goal,” Mars coach Scott Heinauer said. “We wanted to run the clock down as much as we could, and we thought Josh could get outside because they were clogging the middle. Fortunately he got in the end zone.”
Mars had a big advantage in possession early in the game, which led to them taking a 14-0 lead. Nearhoof connected with Smith for a 38-yard touchdown pass on the opening drive of the game, and Schultheis plunged in for a 1-yard score to put Mars ahead by two touchdowns.
The Planets could have gone ahead by three scores, but Singh stripped Schultheis at the 3-yard line, and Ryan Furr recovered for Franklin Regional.
The Panthers got on the scoreboard with 29 seconds remaining in the half when Brown ran in a 2-yard score. That capped a 15-play drive that lasted 6 minutes, 15 seconds and gave Franklin Regional momentum entering the second half.
“We knew when they moved the ball down the field at the end of the second quarter that we would have to come out and stop them,” Heinauer said. “We knew they were going to come out at us because they have some big, physical kids.”
The Panthers tied the game on a 52-yard touchdown pass from Nico Lodovico to Colin Jonov, the Panthers' only completed pass of the game.
Franklin Regional then stopped the Planets on Singh's second interception of the game, which led to Velasquez's field goal.
“I thought we had the momentum, and we showed that by going up 10 points,” Franklin Regional coach Greg Botta said. “But at the same time, you have to withhold their momentum. You can't make mistakes like we did, and it gave them life.”
Franklin Regional had a final drive to win the game, but the Mars defense stopped Brown on a fourth-and-2 at its own 40-yard line with 2:40 to play.
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-388-5830 or firstname.lastname@example.org.