VANDERGRIFT — Mars shut out Kiski Area 38-0 in a WPIAL 5A Northern Conference football matchup Friday night.
Mars (8-1, 5-1) forced six turnovers with four interceptions and two fumbles. The Planets' defense held Kiski (3-6, 2-4) to 154 total yards on the game.
“That's the difference in the game tonight,” Mars coach Scott Heinauer said. “We made big plays when it counted and we held them to no big plays.”
Heinauer said the key was to keep the Cavaliers' passing game in check.
“We came out here tonight to put some pressure on their quarterback (Ryne Wallace),” Heinauer said. “He's the guy you gotta stop. That's what we came in to do.”
Kiski found early success with short passes. Wallace completed five of his first seven passes for 41 yards.
But the success was short-lived. Wallace finished with 23 attempts and eight completions for 57 yards. He threw three of the Cavaliers' interceptions, two of which landed in the hands of cornerback Khori Ramseur-Fusco.
“They came out early, they threw some bubble screens,” Heinauer said. “We changed some stuff up defensively on them, and I think we got pressure on that and made some big plays.”
The Planet running game carried the offense with 253 yards, led by running back Garret Reinke, who carried the ball 22 times for 183 yards with three touchdowns.
Reinke also had a fourth touchdown on a 43-yard pass thrown by quarterback Tyler Kowalkowski.
Kowalkowski finished the game with six completions on 10 attempts worth 127 yards.
“He's a huge quarterback for us. He's a pretty smart guy and he listens,” Heinauer said.
The flaws in Mars' offense showed in six sacks of Kowalkowski.
“Offensively, we need to not come off blocks, we need to stay on blocks,” Heinauer said. “I know we scored over 35, but it could have been there sooner.”
But Heinauer said he also recognized the playcalling on the other end tended to be all-out blitzes. He said in those blitz schemes, it's tough to stop everyone every play.
“He brings every guy,” he said. “Sometimes we don't have enough guys to block what he brings.”
Kiski coach Sam Albert said his players showed a lot of energy on the blitz.
“Our kids played hard,” Albert said. “They're physical, we flew to the ball.”
Albert said the defense missed tackles that led to Mars' opportunities.
“If you make mistakes and miss an assignment, you can't win the game,” Albert said. “You can't do that against good football teams.”
Albert said he also struggled to keep playmakers on the field after struggling with injuries all season.
“The kids that are your playmakers are leaving the game hurt, what do you do, and then you put a freshman in there who's not ready to be out there,” Albert said. “But they put in the effort.”
Heinauer said adjusting to the blitz is where his offense began to open up, and ultimately led to the big plays that won Mars the game.
“Those big plays happen,” Heinauer said. “Our guys scoot through there and there's nobody left.”
Mars closes the regular season Friday by hosting Hampton.