Big, experienced line leads charge for Mars

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Friday, August 20, 2021 | 6:01 AM


Mars senior left tackle Matt Detisch spent this offseason doing bear crawls on a big hill at his home.

“I would take a 100-pound sandbag and I’d walk it up and down a bunch of times until I’m tired,” he said, “almost puking.”

The 6-foot-7, 290-pound Detisch and the Mars offensive linemen will need to continue to carry the load this season.

With the graduation of the program’s second all-time leading rusher and the unexpected loss of quarterback Quinn Fuller, Mars will rely on an experienced, beefy offensive line in its bid to reach the playoffs for the 17th consecutive season.

“Our offensive and defensive lines are going to have to carry us,” coach Scott Heinauer said. “Up front, we’ve got some kids. That’s got to be our strength.”

Mars must fill the void left by running back Teddy Ruffner, who finished with 4,473 career rushing yards, second in Fightin’ Planets history behind Billy Bair (4,702 from 2004-07). Ruffner rushed for 1,575 yards, third best in the WPIAL, along with 23 touchdowns last season.

The Fightin’ Planets will also need a new quarterback. Fuller, who has started the past three years, will sit out his senior season. Fuller, who threw for 446 yards with two touchdowns and six interceptions last season, owns a scholarship to play Division I lacrosse at Jacksonville and has been dealing with a shoulder injury.

“I made my decision on not playing a few weeks ago,” Fuller said Aug. 9. “There were a couple reasons. Of course, my shoulder. Also, lacrosse and all of the training I can put in in the fall leading into the winter and spring. I’m on a club team in fall ball, so I travel and go to tournaments. It was not (an) easy (decision).”

Instead, junior Rafael Bartley will start behind center as the Fightin’ Planets install more of a spread offense over their traditional Wing-T.

Heinauer, entering his 30th season, is confident with giving controls of the offense to Bartley, a 6-foot-3, 215-pounder who is athletic enough to have earned all-conference recognition at defensive back last season. Bartley has taken nearly all of the first-team snaps this summer.

“He will do fine,” Heinauer said, “and we will be fine.”

All four of the Fightin’ Planets’ returning starters on offense play up front. Joining Detisch are fellow senior linemen Remy Crofutt (6-1, 260) and Jacob Ottenweller (6-4, 280) along with first-team all-Greater Allegheny Conference tight end Chris Dvorak (6-6, 215).

“It’s been very enthustiastic and very upbeat,” Dvorak said. “A lot of guys are very excited to get back after it. We’re ready to go this year.”

Expected to fill out the offensive line are senior Anthony Dentel (6-4, 260) and junior Alex Jabunovksy.

They will be blocking for a committee of inexperienced running backs. Mars’ leading returning rusher is sophomore Evan Wright, who gained 57 yards on 14 carries last year. Others in the mix for carries are senior Joey Tepke, junior Luka Moran, sophomore Jacob Maple and at least one promising freshman in what Heinauer called likely his most inexperienced backfield in his three decades at the Butler County school.

“Last year we had running backs coming back and no linemen coming back,” Heinauer said. “This year is the exact opposite. … We will have to develop some running backs. Someone will emerge, but it’s a little early right now.”

Returning starters on defense are nose guard Crofutt, end Dvorak, Bartley, sophomore linebacker Jacob Maple and junior defensive tackle Logan Santa.

The Fightin’ Planets went 6-2 last season, losing to eventual WPIAL and PIAA Class 5A champion Thomas Jefferson, 41-6, in the quarterfinals of the covid-condensed eight-team bracket. It marked the fifth consecutive one-and-done in the WPIAL playoffs for Mars.

“It’s been a long time,” Dvorak said. “But I think this year we have a good group. I think we can really make a run.”

Mars

Coach: Scott Heinauer

2020 record: 6-2, 6-1 in Class 4A Greater Allegheny Conference

All-time record: 426-517-32

SCHEDULE

Date, Opponent, Time

8.27 North Hills, 7

9.3 at Shaler, 7

9.10 New Castle, 7

9.17 Highlands*, 7

9.24 at Plum*, 7

10.1 Armstrong*, 7

10.8 Knoch*, 7

10.15 at Greensburg Salem*, 7

10.22 Indiana*, 7

10.29 at Hampton*, 7

*Conference game

STATISTICAL LEADERS

Passing: Quinn Fuller

28-71, 446 yards, 2 TDs

Receiving: Anthony Vargo*

7-144

Rushing: Teddy Ruffner*

199-1,575, 23 TDs

*Graduated

FAST FACTS

• Mars coach Scott Heinauer begins his 30th season, which ranks second among active WPIAL coaches in longevity behind only Mapletown’s George Messich (39th season). Heinauer is 201-110.

• Since reaching the 2015 WPIAL Class 3A semifinals, the Fightin’ Planets lost their playoff opener five straight seasons by average score of 37-10.

• Mars’ three nonconference opponents this season — North Hills, Shaler and New Castle — went a combined 4-16 last season.

• Mars has enjoyed coaching stability over the years and that won’t change this season. The entire staff returns, and Heinauer, who doubles as the Mars athletic director, dismissed rumors that former Pine-Richland coach Eric Kasperowicz would join the staff. “It’s not going to happen,” Heinauer said.

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