ADAMS TWP — Quinn Fuller's margin for error was non-existent.
Both down-and-distance and the clock were working against the Mars junior quarterback Friday night at the Mars Athletic Complex.
Fuller sold a fake to Teddy Ruffner on fourth down and scored on a diving effort from 3 yards out with 1 second left in the first half. Fuller's score put Mars ahead for good during a 35-13 Greater Allegheny Conference win over Hampton.
Risk-taking will be a necessity during a season shortened to seven games by the coronavirus pandemic.
“I absolutely love it,” Fuller said about taking chances. “Honestly, at the end there, we had nothing to lose. We were near the endzone and I knew it was either endzone or nothing.”
Every game WPIAL schools play will be conference games, so postseason concerns, should the season reach that point, will always be at the forefront of Ruffner's mind.
“We have seven games and in this section we have seven winnable games,” said Ruffner, who scored four touchdowns and rushed for 248 yards on 23 carries. “It started here tonight. There's no, you know, we lost, oh well. You have to win all these games because it's going to matter during playoff time.”
Going for the touchdown, instead of settling for a field goal allowed Mars to take a 14-10 lead into half. Ruffner, who scored five touchdowns and rushed for 248 yards on 31 carries, made sure the Planets never gave the lead back.
On Mars' first possession after halftime, Ruffner capped a nine-play, 70-yard drive with a 30-yard touchdown run.
“We knew we could do better,” Ruffner said. “I didn't think we played great in the first half. We knew we could make adjustments and do a lot better. When we came out in the second half we had a better attitude and wanted to finish.”
The Planets, who have beaten the Talbots 11 straight times, sputtered at the start. Hampton (0-1) opened the game with a 13-play, 60-yard drive capped with a 13-yard touchdown pass from Matt DeMatteo to Benny Haselrig.
Ruffner tied the game on Mars' ensuing possession with a 3-yard touchdown run.
Hampton then got inside the Mars 10 but failed to score when DeMatteo missed a 22-yard field goal.
“Early in the game, we shot ourselves in the foot with penalties,” Hampton coach Jacque DeMatteo said. “It wasn't turnovers tonight. It was good in that department. … When we got in the redzone, we didn't get the points we needed against a good team.”
After forcing Mars (1-0) into a three-and-out following the missed field goal, Hampton added a 30-yard field goal by Matt DeMatteo to put the Talbots ahead 10-7 with 4 minutes, 21 seconds left in the half.
Planets coach Scott Heinauer was happy with how Mars adjusted following that drive.
After the uncertainty about whether or not they would play at all, the Planets were thrilled to have an opportunity to make adjustments.
Mars' first three possessions in the second half ended with Ruffner touchdown runs of 30, 49 and 31 yards.
“We're happy to play football, that's the biggest factor,” Heinauer said. “Our kids know how to win. Sometimes, it might not be pretty out there, but in the end we came through in the second half.”
The Planets outgained Hampton 277-217 on the ground.
The decision before halftime helped spur Mars on, but this is a Planets group that would have been focused on the finish no matter the result of Fuller's plunge.
“We have a young team, so at halftime what helped us out a lot was the senior leadership,” said Fuller, who passed for 47 yards and also intercepted a pass. “The upperclassmen telling them we have to stay focused and get the job done.”
Mars travels to Highlands (1-0) Friday.
Hampton 7 3 3 0 — 13
Mars 7 7 14 7 — 35
H — Benny Hasselrig 13 pass from Mat DeMatteo (DeMatteo kick), 5:01
M — Teddy Ruffner 3 run (Eli Wright kick), 2:16
H — DeMatteo 30 field goal, 4:21
M — Quinn Fuller 3 run (Wright kick), :01
M — Ruffner 30 run (Wright kick), 7:13
H — DeMatteo 19 field goal, 2:06
M — Ruffner 49 run (Wright kick), 1:03
M — Ruffner 31 run (Wright kick), 7:26
Rushing:Hampton, Matt DeMastteo 7-53, Christian Liberto 11-48, Joe Liberto 7-45, Gage Galuska 9-45, Muchael Morgano 4-24, Brock Borgo 2-2. Mars, Teddy Riffner 23-248, Anthony Vargo 3-13, Ben Chizmar 6-12, Quinn Fuller 2-4.
Passing:Hampton, Matt DeMatteo 5-10-63-1. Mars, Quinn Fuller 4-5-47-0.
Receiving:Hampton, Benny Hasselrig 3-33, Michael Witherup 1-27, Gage Galuska 1-3. Mars, Jacob Woolridge 2-37, Teddy Ruffner 2-10.