Getting defensive: Mars' offense gets lot of attention, but other side of the ball will be key to team's fate

September 8, 2020 Cranberry Local Sports

ADAMS TWP — The Mars football team's offense gets a lot of attention every fall.

That's understandable, since head coach Scott Heinauer's Wing-T scheme almost always produces a fullback who ends up with well over 1,000 yards rushing and a bevy of touchdowns.

But the Planets take a lot of pride in their play on the other side of the ball as well.

This year's defense has many holes to fill, but Heinauer believes linebackers Teddy Ruffner and Ben Chizmar, the unit's two returning starters, are cornerstones to build around.

“Ben was first team all-conference last year and that was awesome for him. Teddy would have been, but there's a rule that says you can't be first team on both sides of the ball,” said Heinauer. “Teddy was the leading rusher in (WPIAL Class 5A), and he had to be named first team on offense.”

Other players are primed to step into prominent roles. They include Remy Crofutt and Chase Nesselroad on the defensive line and Evan Thompson and Anthony Vargo in the secondary.

“Our defensive front looks good,” said Nesselroad, who will start at nose guard and at center on offense for the third straight season. “The big guys are working to make sure (Ruffner and Chizmar) are freed up to make plays.

“It feels good to have that trust from the coaches to be a two-way starter.”

Ruffner will once again be the focal point of the offense after gashing opposing defenses for over 1,900 yards and 25 touchdowns on the ground last year. He will be running behind a line that returns two starters in Nesselroad and guard Jordan Moser.

“The line is not a concern,” said Heinauer. “We have to replace guys every year and we'll make due with what we have. We have some kids who didn't start, but got playing time last year.”

Quarterback Quinn Fuller aims to build on a sophomore campaign that saw him pass for 515 yards, five touchdowns and five interceptions.

“Starting at quarterback as a 10th-grader is often difficult,” said Heinauer. “Quinn knows the offense better now, which will give him more confidence and that will help.”

Vargo, a senior, should provide the offense with another playmaker at one of the wingback spots.

Junior Eli Wright will be the placekicker after getting limited chances last year behind Blake Edwards. Punter Drew Schlegel also graduated and Heinauer and his staff are still searching for a replacement.

The Planets competed in Class 5A the last two seasons, going a combined 15-7 with a pair of WPIAL playoff appearances. In fact, Mars has made the postseason 15 consecutive years.

They will look to make it 16 in a row after dropping back down to Class 4A this year.

“Armstrong, Hampton and Plum also dropped down and are conference games for us,” said Heinauer. “So, we'll still be playing some bigger schools.”

Mars and Knoch are once again in the same conference. The backyard rivals have not played each other since 2017.

“That's a good thing, having Knoch back on our schedule,” added Heinauer. “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but the kids are excited.”

Derek Pyda

Derek Pyda

- Graduated from Connellsville High School in 1996
- Graduated from Clarion University in 2000 with a Bachelors in Communications
- Have also written for Clarion News (Clarion, PA) and the Herald-Standard (Uniontown, PA)
- Started at the Butler Eagle on April 2, 2002
- Interests include sports, history and geography