Mars boys lacrosse weathers early South Fayette storm, advances to 4th straight state title game

Tuesday, June 11, 2024 | 10:01 PM

South Fayette couldn’t have dreamed of a better start to Tuesday’s PIAA Class 2A boys lacrosse semifinal, but Mars got the ending it wanted.

After seeing the Lions score the first five goals, Mars stormed back to squelch any upset hopes and earned a 20-10 victory at North Allegheny to advance to the state championship game for a fourth consecutive season.

The Fightin’ Planets finished the game on a 20-5 run and scored 13 consecutive goals between the third and fourth quarters.

“(South Fayette) definitely started off really flying and buzzing,” Mars coach Bob Marcoux said. “They got a little bit of momentum, and momentum is everything in lacrosse. Once you start seeing that ball go in the back of the net, that energy builds on itself. Vice versa is also true. We let our heads hang a little bit, but thankfully we bounced back.”

The Fightin’ Planets (20-3) will meet Marple Newtown in the 2A final for the third straight time at noon Saturday at Penn State’s Panzer Stadium. It’ll be a rubber match as Mars won in 2022 and Marple Newtown won last year.

Tuesday’s game was the first all-WPIAL state semifinal in boys lacrosse history and a rematch of the WPIAL title game, which Mars won 16-5 on May 22.

The rematch started quite well for the Lions (21-3).

David Welhorsky and Owen Makar scored the first two goals, which forced a Mars timeout less than three minutes into the game.

When Bryce Watkins added a pair of goals and Welhorsky scored his second and with just over four minutes remaining in the first quarter, it was 5-0.

“We came out hot,” South Fayette coach Shawn Leydig said. “Our guys were definitely inspired. They were rolling after the Trinity win and wanted to keep it going. To go up 5-0 against Mars … I don’t think that’s ever happened in history.”

Ian Coulter got a late goal at the end of the first and then Mars really found its footing in the second.

Coulter added another goal and Mars ended up scoring seven unanswered to take a 7-5 lead before a late tally by South Fayette’s Wade Scholar made it 7-6 at halftime.

Coulter ended up scoring a game-high six goals, but his first two helped get the Fightin’ Planets on track.

“I remember looking at the score and it was 5-0 and thinking that I’ve played with a lot of these guys since first grade and it might be the last time I get to play with them,” Coulter said. “I definitely didn’t want that to be the case, so I took matters into my own hands.”

Scholar and Makar scored consecutive goals to give South Fayette a brief lead before Mars went on its run of 13 unanswered goals.

Coulter tied it up and Penn State recruit Enzo Grieco scored his first, which gave Mars the lead for good.

Dylan Phillips, Sean Brennan, Ben Bowser and Jack Tirch had at least one goal during the streak. Grieco finished with four goals and Grieco had a hat trick.

South Fayette made the deepest run in the state playoffs in its history and put a scare in the Fightin’ Planets, which is something Leydig said his players should be proud of.

“On the drive home, I want them to keep their heads up because they lost to a state championship team that’s played in the title game four years in a row,” Leydig said. “It’s disappointing to lose, but it’s nothing to be upset about.”

The Fightin’ Planets will now prepare for Mars-Marple Newtown III.

“Since we’ve played them the last two years, we’ve followed them all year,” Marcoux said. “We had an inkling in the back of our heads that if we reached the state finals, that would probably be the matchup. They know us pretty well and we know them pretty well, so it will come down once again to who executes their game plan.”

Jerin Steele is a freelance writer

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