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Highlands’ defense knocks Mars out of orbit

Written by: on Friday, September 26th, 2008


MARS, Pa. – The first four weeks of the 2008 season for Mars High was out of this world.  The Planets defeated two “AAAA” schools, and won three of its first four games.

But Thursday night, it was Highlands’ staunch defense that brought the Planets back down to earth.

The Golden Rams (5-0 overall, 1-0 Greater Allegheny) held the Planets (3-2, 0-1) to just 81 yards of offense through three quarters, and ran 69 offensive plays en route to a 26-7 victory at the Mars Athletic Complex.

Watching the game from the onset, one could tell that it was destined to be Highlands’ night.

Mars lost a fumble to the Rams on its first play from scrimmage, and the brown and gold wasted a lot of time converting that gift into points, six minutes and eleven seconds, to be exact.

When Highlands’ Brendan Lucchino crashed in from a yard out to make it 7-0, it capped a 13-play, 40 yard drive.  The Golden Rams longest gain on that drive was a six-yard pass from Jeff Sinclair to Lucchino.  All the rest of the plays on the drive were runs.

Mars, awakened by the score, suddenly found some life, and drove from its own 18 yard line to the Rams’ 2.  But on fourth-and-goal to go, feature back Shane Kaclik was stopped for no gain, and Highlands averted a 7-7 tie.

Nearly six minutes later, Highlands grabbed a 14-0 lead when Sinclair (8-of-16, 133 yards, TD, INT) hooked up with Tyler Cole from 10 yards out.  At that juncture, Sinclair was 5-of-6 for 69 yards.  After that point, he proceeded to complete only three of his next 10 passes.

After a Mars three-and-out, David Buterbaugh converted a 34-yard field goal to make it 17-0 Golden Rams.

Mars had a chance to dent the scoreboard right before the half, but even though Christopher Karns’ 51-yard field goal attempt had the distance, it sailed wide left.

And things went from bad to worse for Mars in the second half.  Highlands opened the half with a 16-play, 65-yard drive, capped by Buterbaugh’s second field goal, this a 22-yarder to give the Rams a 20-0 lead.

On the drive, which ate up nearly eight minutes, Highlands gained all of its yards rushing, and was aided by two Planet penalties, a personal foul for a late hit, and a facemask penalty that positioned the ball at the Mars 6 yard line.

And Highlands’ defense was nasty, holding Mars to minus-12 yards of offense in the third quarter.  Mars didn’t get anything going offensively in the second half until there was 7:44 left in the game.

Quarterback John Brake (4-of-11, 92 yards) found Austin Miele on a 50-yard bomb down the visitors’ sideline, then Brake called his own number from two yards out to cut the score to 26-7.

Prior to Mars’ offense awakening, Sinclair capped the Highlands scoring with a one-yard sneak.  The dual-threat Sinclair added 64 rushing yards on 17 attempts.

Ernest Stewart added 15 rushes for 55 yards for the Golden Rams, while Bill Devlin chipped in with 25 yards on nine carries.  Lucchino added 33 yards on 11 carries and the first Ram touchdown.

Highlands, as a team, ran the ball 53 times for 179 yards and notched 17 first downs.

Kaclik, who entered the game with 550 rushing yards, was limited to just 26 yards on eight carries.  Miele paced the Mars’ ground game, with 35 yards on six carries.

Corey Slater added 40 yards on four carries for the Planets, who were limited to just 185 yards of offense, 93 of which were rushing yards.

Highlands returns home next weekend to Natrona Heights to face Indiana, while Mars, which is undefeated on the road this season, travels to Murrysville to take on Franklin Regional.


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