MANOR TWP, Armstrong County — Mars wanted to make sure Armstrong's football team felt the Planets' frustration.
A humbling, 21-point loss to Plum last week eliminated Mars' margin for error for earning a playoff spot out of the Greater Allegheny Conference.
Mars stayed in the race by learning on its strong running game, scoring on three of its first four possessions and raced to a 27-7 victory Friday night at Armstrong Stadium.
Only the top two teams in Class 4A from each conference will make the playoffs.
“After the loss to Plum, we have to make sure we are playing our best game,” said Chizmar, who rushed for 85 yards and a score. “It's playoff time, basically. If we lose one time, we may not play in the playoffs again.”
Misdirection served Mars (3-1, 3-1) well early. Anthony Vargo gashed the River Hawks on a 62-yard run on the Planets' first possession. Teddy Ruffner, who finished with 218 yards and two touchdowns on 28 carries, scored on a 3-yard run two plays later to put Mars ahead with 10 minutes, 12 seconds left in the first quarter.
The Planets, who finished with 390 rushing yards, were balanced throughout.
Vargo, who finished with 77 yards, scored on an 11-yard run in the second quarter and provided a third option to Chizmar and Ruffner.
“Our offensive line came out pounding their defensive line,” Chizmar said. “We got great blocks and changed our scheme up to get the defense confused.”
Ruffner closed the scoring for Mars with a 10-yard run late in the first half.
Planets coach Scott Heinauer was pleased with the effort before the break.
“I felt we played well in the first half,” Heinauer said. “I feel we let off the gas in the second half. You can't do that. You have to play a full game.”
The River Hawks (2-2, 2-2) couldn't get out of their own way. Armstrong forced Mars quarterback Quinn Fuller into three interceptions but didn't score until Jesse Hepler caught a 28-yard pass from Cadin Olsen in the third quarter.
Olsen finished with 190 yard passing, but likely would have had more if not for stops and holding penalties.
“We call them SIWs, self-inflicted wounds,” Armstrong coach Frank Fabian said. “I don't how many times we had a guy behind the Mars defensive back and didn't make the play.”
Mars had a bit of a scare in the third quarter when Ruffner went out of the game with an injury.
Heinauer said he was only taken out a precaution.
“Teddy said he was fine,” Heinauer said. “I didn't want him to run anymore. There was no reason to do that.”
Mars 13 14 0 0 — 27
Armstrong 0 0 0 7 — 7
M — Teddy Ruffner 3 run (Eli Wright kick), 10:12
M — Ben Chizmar 1 run (kick failed), 2:15
M — Anthony Vargo 11 run (Wright kick), 11:16
M — Ruffner 10 run (Wright kick), 3:39
A — Jesse Hepler 28 pass from Cadin Olsen (Adam Hudock kick), 7:33
Rushing:Mars, Teddy Ruffner 28-218, Ben Chizmar 16-85, Anthony Vargo 6-78, Quinn Fuller 3-5. Armstrong, Caleb Retzer 5-29, Cadin Olsen 4-3, Aaron Robb 1-(-2).
Passing:Mars, Quinn Fuller 1-8-11-3. Armstrong, Cadin Olsen 16-36-190-1 Receiving:Mars, Anthony Vargo 1-11. Armstrong, Cole Brown 9-114, Jesse Hepler 3-44, Aaron Robb 1-20, Noah Cooper 2-12