Schultheis' 4 TDs help Mars bounce Blackhawk
Mars' Josh Schultheis said there's no reason to question his Planets' No. 2 seed.
“We proved ourselves. Definitely,” said Schultheis, who rushed for four touchdowns in Friday night's 45-21 win over visiting No. 15 Blackhawk in the first round of the WPIAL Class AAA playoffs. “We heard a lot of about how we were the underdogs in this game.”
That certainly wasn't the case, and the sophomore was a big reason why. Schultheis scored on runs of 7, 25, 43 and 2 yards, part of his 251 yards on 26 carries.
But the Mars defense also was good, slowing Blackhawk's star quarterback, talented rusher and WPIAL-leading receiver. The Planets sacked Chander Kincade five times and intercepted him once. They held 1,000-yard rusher Cole Chiapialle to 19 yards on 10 carries. And while wideout Alex Caratelli had nine catches for 177 yards, most came in the second half when Mars already was well ahead.
“Our plan coming in was to put as much heat on (Kincade) as we could,” Mars coach Scott Heinauer said. “He didn't throw any balls downfield.”
Winner of the Greater Allegheny conference, Mars (9-1) will face West Mifflin (9-1) in the second round.
Mars scored touchdowns on its first three possessions, needing just five plays to take a 21-0 lead.
Those first seven minutes confirmed two season-long trends: Mars has a great run game, and Blackhawk's defense hasn't been good enough.
“Disastrous,” Blackhawk coach Joe Hamilton said of his Cougars' start. “Our nemesis all year has been the defense.”
Great field position helped Mars take its early lead. The Planets' first two touchdown drives covered just 13 and 25 yards.
A long opening kickoff return by Alex Smith started the first. Two carries by Schultheis, covering 6 and 7 yards, gave Mars a 7-0 lead 48 seconds into the game.
One minute later, the Planets scored again.
On first down at the Blackhawk 25, Schultheis ran 4 yards and fumbled. The bouncing ball was scooped by Owen Nearhoof, who ran the final 21 yards. With just 1:48 gone in the first quarter, Mars led, 14-0.
The third scoring drive covered 66 yards. It was just two plays: a 41-yard run by Nearhoof and a 25-yard touchdown run by Schultheis. With 5:32 left in the first quarter, Mars led, 21-0.
A 43-yard touchdown by Schultheis in the second quarter extended Mars' lead to 28-0.
Blackhawk had a 99-yard touchdown drive to begin the second half, highlighted by a 55-yard catch by Caratelli. A 1-yard touchdown run by Kincade capped the drive, cutting Mars' lead to 28-14 with 8:04 left in the third.
But Mars kept scoring, including a 2-yard touchdown run by Schultheis less than four minutes later.
Chris Harlan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-380-5666.