Building momentum

Mars looks to stay hot against G-S Friday evening

October 15, 2020 Cranberry Local Sports

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Mars has earned two straight lopsided wins and the Planets want to keep that momentum going as the WPIAL football playoffs draw closer.

Head coach Scott Heinauer's team has the chance to close the regular season on a four-game winning streak and a struggling Greensburg Salem squad is the Planets' next test.

The Golden Lions (1-4) earned their lone victory Sept. 18 against Knoch, a 13-12 decision that was the program's 700th all-time win.

But injuries have plagued veteran coach Dave Keefer's team.

Starting quarterback Hayden Teska surpassed 600 yards passing for the season, but was lost for the year with an injury.

Backup Cody Rubrecht was already injured, so Keefer turned to the Wildcat formation last week with running back Alex Briggs taking snaps.

Briggs did rush for 106 yards, but he needed 36 carries to get there and the Lions fell to Armstrong, 40-0.

“We had three drives that got inside their 20-yard line,” said Keefer, “but Alex had just a few days to learn a new system.

“He looks much better in practice this week.”

Mars defeated rival Knoch last week, 48-13, with running back Teddy Ruffner rushing for 303 yards and six touchdowns.

“We know what Greensburg's record is. They're searching for answers right now,” said Heinauer, “but we have to be ready. This game is just as important for us as any other.”

After being dealt a 49-21 loss by Plum three weeks ago, the Planets have returned to form on defense, giving up just 20 combined points in the last two games.

“You live and learn,” said Heinauer. “We went back to the drawing board on defense and the kids have reacted well.”

With a victory, Heinauer will earn his 200th win as head coach of the Planets.

“I never really thought about coaching this long. It just means I'm getting old,” he said, laughing.

Knoch (0-5) at Plum (5-0)

7 p.m., Friday

This marks the first football meeting between the schools since 2005. Plum leads the series 7-2 and Knoch has not defeated the Mustangs since 1993.

Knoch QB JJ Szebalskie was due to have an MRI done on his upper body Wednesday and is questionable for this game. He has thrown for 304 yards and a touchdown. .... Keith Washington will be behind center if Szebalskie cannot go. Washington tossed a 31-yard TD pass to Zane Inklovich last week. ... RB Gavin McGowan leads the Knights' ground attack with 200 yards on 41 carries.

Plum QB Ryan Hubner has thrown for 846 yards and 11 TDs while tossing only one interception. ... Freshman RB Eryck Moore has 468 yards and 7 TDS on the ground. ... Reed Martin (19 catches-296 yards) and Logan Brooks (13-304) are the Mustangs' biggest receiving threats.

Burrell (2-3) at Freeport (2-1)

7 p.m., Friday

The Yellowjackets lead the series between the teams 33-16, though Burrell claimed a 36-35 overtime decision last year.

This marks Freeport's first game in three weeks as COVID-19 concerns forced the Yellowjackets to cancel their last two games. ... Ben Lane threw for 243 yards after being shifted from running back to quarterback in Freeport's last game. He has also rushed for 272 yards and five TDs and caught five passes for 99 yards this year. ... Vinnie Clark has six catches for 137 yards, Brady Stivenson six catches for 72 yards for the Yellowjackets.

Burrell is coming off a 44-6 win over Deer Lakes, but was outscored 122-16 in losses to North Catholic and Apollo-Ridge the previous two weeks. ... QB Alex Arledge threw for 569 yards and three TDs in the Bucs' first four games this season. ... RB Caden Dicaprio rushed for 331 yards and WR A.J. Corrado has 23 catches for 423 yards.

North Catholic (5-0, 4-0) at Deer Lakes (0-5)

7 p.m., Friday

North Catholic continued its dominant play this season with a 28-2 defeat of South Park last week. Deer Lakes suffered a 44-6 loss at Burrell.

North's five opponents this season have successfully converted third-down attempts just 24 percent of the time (14 of 57).

Deer Lakes has been outscored 173-20 this season.

North defeated the Lancers last year, 42-21.

Slippery Rock (2-3) at Hickory (5-0)

7 p.m., Saturday

This is a rematch of a 45-0 Hickory win at Troy-Alan Stadium in Slippery Rock. ... In that game, William Mokel threw for just 7 yards for the Rockets.

Things have gotten better for Mokel since. He's thrown for 460 yards in the two weeks since and led Slippery Rock on a game-tying drive in the final minutes against Grove City last week. The Rockets won that game over the Eagles, 17-14.

Mokel is 79 of 141 for a county-leading 910 yards and five TDs this season.

John Sabo caught six passes for 120 yards last week for the Rockets, who have four players with 14 or more receptions this season.

Hickory is rolling behind dynamic QB Michael Henwood, who has thrown for 1,243 yards and 15 TDs this season. He's also run for 410 yards and eight scores.

Henwood threw for 360 yards and six touchdowns the last time the Hornets played the Rockets.

Hickory has scored 40 or more points in four of its five games this season.

Brockway (2-3, 1-3) at Union/A-C Valley (4-1, 3-1)

7 p.m., Friday


Brockway earned its second straight win of the season last week, 19-14 over Curwensville. Union/ACV defeated South Side from the WPIAL, 21-14.

Falcon Knights' senior QB Tanner Merwin has passed for 465 yards this season with 4 TDs and 4 INTs. He's added 188 yards and 4 TDs on the ground.

Brockway QB Conner Ford threw for 152 yards and two touchdowns in last week's win.

In the season-opener Sept. 11 at Brockway, the Falcon Knights pinned a 37-7 defeat on the Rovers.

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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