ADAMS TWP — On paper, Saturday's WPIAL Class 3A boys soccer first-round playoff game between Belle Vernon and Mars was an even matchup.
The Leopards were the No. 9 seed while Mars was No. 8, but what transpired at the Mars Athletic Complex proved that looks can be deceiving.
The Planets received three goals from senior forward Devin Schupp — the first coming just over a minute into the game — as Mars dispatched the Leopards, 4-0.
“We wanted to make a statement,” said Schupp, who now has 11 goals on the season. “We're the defending WPIAL and state champions and even though we're not the top seed, we're still a good team.”
The win sets up a quarterfinal Wednesday when the Planets (13-4-2) will travel to top-seeded West Allegheny (19-0) to take on the Indians, who defeated Indiana, 3-0, Saturday.
The Planets broke the ice against Belle Vernon when senior Derek Blake avoided pressure from a Leopards defender to the right of the net and sent a perfect cross to Schupp, who headed the ball past goalkeeper Will Mikula.
Schupp was just feet from Belle Vernon's net when he made contact with the ball ... and the Planets were just getting started.
Just over a minute later, Gabe Singh dribbled around a defender and got off an uncontested shot from 15 yards that made it 2-0.
“I wasn't expecting to score goals as quickly as we did,” said Mars coach Chris Knauff. “It's tough to tell how you match up with teams from other sections. We had no common opponents with Belle Vernon and there's different styles of play in the different sections.”
Leopards' coach Alan Yeschenko echoed that sentiment.
“We're used to playing teams that attack you right down the middle of the field,” he said. “Mars did a great job of possessing the ball in the middle third and they got the ball to the outside. We haven't been exposed to that kind of play.
“We saw them on film and prepared for it, but there's a big difference when you're going up against it live.”
Schupp put in a rebound in the 28th minute and the Planets enjoyed a 3-0 advantage at halftime.
The Leopards (13-5-1) feature senior forward Daniel Sassak, Belle Vernon's career scoring leader who tallied over 20 goals this season. Mars limited him to just two shots on goal, the second one saved by Planet goalkeeper Kaden Gratton in the 71st minute. By that point, the Planets' lead had reached 4-0, thanks to Schupp's third goal early in the second half.
Mikula made nine saves for the Leopards. Gratton, a sophomore, stopped five shots for Mars.