WEST VIEW — Nick Spotti provided a temporary reprieve for the Mars football team Friday night at Martorelli Stadium.
The Planets desperately needed one after playing one of the least productive quarters since coach Scott Heinauer took over the program in 1992.
Spotti stepped in front of a Dylan Pawling pass in the end zone with less than a minute remaining in the first half to halt a 17-play Indians' drive which lasted more than 10 minutes.
“We were trying to stay back in our zone and stay true to our defense,” Spotti said.
Mars would find its footing in the second half, erasing a 7-0 deficit and stealing a 14-7 Northern Conference victory on the road.
Heinauer was hard- pressed to think of a tougher stretch.
“They did what we are used to doing, controlling the ball,” Heinauer said. “We made some big plays and I think holding them out of the endzone was the big thing in the first half.”
The Planets were out of sorts before halftime. During the second quarter, Mars (5-2, 3-1) ran three offensive plays and lost a yard.
Teddy Ruffner, who finished with 127 yards on 26 carries, had 17 yards in the first half.
North Hills (4-3, 3-1) was out-dueling Mars at its own game. The Indians took a 7-0 lead in the first quarter when Pawling capped a 12-play, 71-yard drive with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Pawling led North Hills with 64 yards rushing and threw for 49.
“We do what we do,” Indians coach Pat Carey said. “It was four guys carrying the ball trying to mix in play action. We were successful as we were all year moving the ball.”
After the interception, Mars, which has now won three straight and moved into second place, turned the tide on the first possession after halftime.
Ruffner, who averages 230 rushing yards per game, carried the ball eight times on the Planets' opening possession of the second half.
His final carry of the 12-play drive tied the game with a 1-yard touchdown run.
“We had to lock down, focus up and listen to our coaches and get to our blocks and everything else,” Spotti said.
Mars would win despite being outgained, 212-205. The Planets forced the Indians to punt on three of their four drives after halftime.
North Hills' final drive ended when the Indians turned the ball over on downs.
“I think they settled in,” Carey said. “They got Ruffner going, but they also got Spotti going a bit. It came down to the play up front. Their guys played well up front in the second half and (Ruffner) is hard to deal with.”
Ruffner would score the go-ahead touchdown for Mars with 3:47 remaining on a 2-yard run.
Much like the Planets' other scoring drive, they took 12 plays and were able to open things up with the run. On the first play from the Mars 24, Ruffner faked a reverse and went 32 yards to get into North Hills territory.
Runs from Spotti, Ruffner and a strong push from the offensive line allowed Mars to come from behind.
Just like the Planets planned it.
“We controlled the ball in the second half,” Heinauer said. “We made some big plays. That's the name of our game and that's what our offense does. Our kids believe in that.”
The Planets host Northern Conference foe Fox Chapel Friday.
Mars 0 0 7 7 —14
North Hills 7 0 0 0 — 7
NH — Dylan Pawkling 1 run (Nate Saul kick), 2:11
M — Teddy Ruffner 1 run (Blake Edwards kick), 7:05
M — Ruffner 2 run (Edwards kick), 3:57
Rushing: Mars, Teddy Ruffner 26-127, Nick Spotti 8-47, Quinn Fuller 2-(-2). North Hills, Dylan Pawliong 21-64, Tom McDonough 9-41, Tyler Tomasic 9-36, Chase Foskey 6-24, Tanner Illnicki 1-(-3).
Passing: Mars, Quinn F uller 1-4-32-0, Teddy Ruffner 0-1-0-0. North Hills, Dylan Pawling 2-4-49-1
Receiving: Mars, Drew Schlegel 1-32. North Hills, Tyler Tomasic 1-31, Tom McDonough 1-18.