Mason Childress’ leg helps Mars defeat Central Valley in Class 4A quarterfinals

Friday, November 10, 2023 | 11:02 PM

Field position can sometimes make or break a football game.

In the WPIAL Class 4A quarterfinal between Mars (10-2) and Central Valley (8-4) at Moe Rubenstein Stadium at Ambridge on Friday night, field position played a key factor.

Mason Childress used his leg to help the Fightin’ Planets to a 24-14 win over the Warriors.

Childress punted six times on the night and pinned Central Valley at its 6, 9, 15 and 16-yard line.

“Mason does it all,” said Mars coach Eric Kasperowicz. “His punting today was incredible.”

“It seemed like we were fighting field position the whole night,” said Warriors coach Mark Lyons.

Childress opened the scoring on Mars’ first drive by booming a 42-yard field goal.

“He made that 42-yard field goal, where if he misses it sort of demoralizes a kid,” said Kasperowicz. “But he made it and we got something out of it.”

The first half was low-scoring affair for clubs that combined for 72 points last week: Mars put up 44 and Central Valley scored 28.

This week, both teams could not find any rhythm offensively and managed just 10 first-half points, all of them belonging to Mars.

The Greater Allegheny Conference champion Fightin’ Planets had a chance with 1:25 left in the first half, when Aidan Alessio got free downfield, but Goodworth couldn’t connect on the pass.

Overcoming that miscue, Goodworth and the Fightin’ Planets started to dink and dunk their way down the field. The 10-play drive was capped off by a 15-yard fade to Cole Yoshioka for a touchdown to give Mars a 10-0 lead going into the break.

The second half saw each offense find its footing as the teams combined for 28 points.

Mars opened the second half with a seven-play drive that Evan Wright finished with a 2-yard run for a score. The highlight of the drive was a 35-yard pass play from Goodworth to Yoshioka.

Goodworth ended the night with 198 yards passing on 14 of 21 attempts and a touchdown.

Central Valley answered with a 13-play drive capped off with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Steven Rutherford to Marcus Lawson.

Central Valley, which finished third in the Parkway Conference, scored on its second drive, running the ball with ease and scoring on sophomore Josiah Boykin’s 3-yard run.

The Warriors got within three by converting the 2-point conversion on a shovel pass from Rutherford to sophomore Ethan Shearer.

Rutherford finished 9 of 20 for 100 yards, ran for 33 yards and had one touchdown through the air and an interception.

Mason Dixon carried the load for the Warriors, rushing for 102 yards on 16 carries.

“The game’s full of runs and getting into rhythm offensively,” said Lyons. “I don’t think we got into that rhythm in the first half.”

“I thought we did a good job of shutting them down in the first half, but they came out in the second and made some changes, got two quick ones on us on two great drives,” said Kasperowicz.

Mars was finally able to stop the Warriors, forcing a punt in the early part of the fourth quarter. After a poor punt, the Fightin’ Planets had good field position at Central Valley’s 32-yard line.

On the third play of the drive, Goodworth handed off to Wright up the middle for a 25-yard touchdown to give Mars a 24-14 lead.

“We go as Evan goes, and he only goes as much as our offensive line, which did a tremendous job,” said Kasperowicz. “He doesn’t need much. If you give a little bit, he’s going to take it.”

Wright finished with 29 carries for 131 yards and two touchdowns.

“It’s a game of momentum. We didn’t capture the momentum,” Lyons said.

Looking to try to stay alive, Central Valley had to go for it on fourth-and-18 deep in its own territory. With pressure in his face, Rutherford ran to his right and threw a pass over the middle.

Yoshioka picked off the pass and sealed the quarterfinal victory for Mars.

“We knew they needed to make a play because they were down,” said Yoshioka. “Thanks goes out to Connor Hartle and our whole defensive line on the pass rush. He got off a pretty bad throw.”

Yoshioka finished with three catches for 61 yards, a touchdown and an interception. Hartle had two sacks for the Fightin’ Planets.

“Our guys laid it on the line. We didn’t play well enough and in a game like this, it happens,” said Lyons. “At the end of the day, you have to play mistake-free football and we didn’t do that.”

“Hats off to coach Lyons and the Central Valley football team,” said Kasperowicz. “Tough, well-coached. Our kids came to play tonight. We were very spirited group. No quit in our team.”

“No one thought we would win; it was nice to prove them wrong. Hopefully we can do it again next week,” said Yoshioka.

Mars will face top-seeded Aliquippa in next Friday’s Class 4A semifinals at a site to be determined.

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