INDIANA — The conclusion to last season still weighs heavily on Mars.
With a four-game winning streak heading into this year's Class 4A WPIAL playoffs, the Fightin' Planets are hoping to erase that memory following a 34-22 victory at Indiana on Friday night.
Senior running back Teddy Ruffner rushed for 234 yards and four touchdowns, including three in a 21-point third quarter that snapped a 7-7 tie at the break. And Mars rallied from a sluggish first half in its regular-season finale to maintain sole possession of second place in the Greater Allegheny Conference standings.
The win gives Mars (6-1) momentum heading into the postseason, a luxury the Planets didn't have in 2019 when they lost two of their last three regular-season games before bowing out in the first round.
“Last year, we lost the last couple games going into the playoffs, so we wanted to finish on a high note,” Mars coach Scott Heinauer said. “That's important. We knew that we were finishing in second place no matter what, but we wanted to go in winning six games.”
Mars will learn its first-round opponent Saturday night.
The Planets were already assured the second seed out of the conference heading into Friday's game. They held the tiebreaker over third-place Hampton after defeating the Talbots, 35-13, in the season opener.
And though it took nearly two quarters for Mars to find a sense of urgency, the Planets erupted after the break.
Ruffner had 160 rushing yards in the second half, including an 81-yard touchdown run on the opening play of the second quarter that gave Mars a 14-7 lead.
The Planets tacked on touchdowns on each of their next possessions to stretch their lead to 28-7.
“We played a little rough in the first half,” Heinauer said. “We didn't come out real well. It's tough playing against that option. They do a good job executing that.
“The second half, we came out and played our football game. I was proud of our football team. Our kids played football the way they're capable of playing football. Our kids did a great job.”
Indiana struck first on its opening possession and held a 7-0 lead until just over four minutes remained in the second quarter.
Ruffner knotted the game at 7 with a 9-yard run. He added touchdowns of 4 and 38 yards.
Mars quarterback Quinn Fuller rushed in from 33 yards out to increase the Planets lead to 34-7 midway through the fourth quarter.
Fuller finished with 60 rushing yards.
Ben Chizmar tallied double-digit tackles for Mars' defense.
Indiana's rally fell short in the final minutes.
After Indians quarterback Devin Flint rushed for his second touchdown of the game to cut the score to 34-14, Indiana recovered its onside kick and tacked on the game's final score six plays later with 61 seconds to go.
Mars 0 7 21 6 — 34
Indiana 7 0 0 15 — 22
I — Devin Flint 29 run (Josh Glaser kick)
M — Teddy Ruffner 9 run (Eli Wright kick)
M — Ruffner 81 run (Wright kick
M — Ruffner 4 run (Wright kick)
M — Ruffner 38 run (Wright kick)
M — Quinn Fuller 33 run (kick blocked)
I — Flint 9 run (Glaser kick)
I — Korbin Wilson 5 run (Glaser pass from A.J. Nickas)
Rushing:Mars, Teddy Ruffner 22-234, Quinn Fuller 4-60, Ben Chizmar 3-12, Jackson Buttermore 2-5, TEAM 3-(-6). Indiana, Devin Flint 31-199, Zach Herringtron 15-61, Korbin Wilson 6-39, Josiah Johnson 2-(-2), TEAM 2-(-3).
Passing:Mars, Quinn Fuller 1-5-25-0. Indiana, Liam McFarlane 1-1-3-0, Devin Flin 0-2-0-1.
Receiving:Mars, Teddy Ruffner 1-25. Indiana, Devin Flint 1-3.