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Mars looks special in rout of Highlands

| Friday, Sept. 21, 2012, 10:07 p.m.
Kiski Area running back Pat Turner looks to turn the corner on Hempfield Area's Billy Thomas during their September 21, 2012 contest versus Hempfield Area in Hempfield Township. Eric Schmadel | Tribune-Review

Mars overwhelmed Highlands in the first half on its way to a 55-6 victory in Greater Allegheny Conference play Friday night.

Host Mars (4-0, 4-0) scored on its first touch of the game when Nolan Skirtich returned the opening kickoff 70 yards.

A few possessions later, Highlands (0-4, 0-4) answered with a 35-yard touchdown pass from Alan Cratsenberg to Dion Fletcher.

Mars then had another terrific kick return, this one by Travis Ganter for 67 yards to the Highlands 13.

A couple of plays later, Josh Schultheis scored on an 8-yard run to start a 42-point rally by Mars. The Planets led, 48-6, at halftime, putting the running clock in effect for the second half.

Highlands has allowed 89 points in the second quarter this season. Mars has allowed just 29 points all season, and Highlands has scored 42.

Mars also had a 52-yard punt return that set up another score.

“We planned there at halftime to put our people in there in the second half and to get a first down and then get the other guys in there,” Mars coach Scott Heinhauer said. “In the beginning of the game, we were a little shaky, but we have a veteran team, and we made some adjustments. When you play a lot of people like we do, you have a chance to talk to guys on the sideline and make those adjustments, and that helps.

“We don't have a really good feel of how good of a football team we have right now. (Highlands' Sam Albert) is a good coach and he has a really young team there, so it is tough to tell from this, but we feel we have a good, solid football team.”

Schultheis led all rushers with 78 yards and three touchdowns on 16 carries.

“We are starting five sophomores and the rest juniors on defense,” Albert said.

“And as you saw, they can play well until they run out of steam. I will not fault my kids for the effort they give. They go out there and fight every week, and I am proud of their effort.

“When you look at it, I really believe that Mars, Franklin Regional and Knoch could be very good teams in Quad-A. That's just what we are dealing with this season.”

Thomas Zuck is a freelance writer.

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