Teddy Ruffner runs for 318 yards, 5 touchdowns to drive Mars past Shaler

Saturday, September 28, 2019 | 12:21 AM

On several occasions in the second half Friday night, Shaler tried to even things up with Mars in a key Class 5A Northern Conference matchup.

Each time, Teddy Ruffner had something to say about that.

The junior running back carried 34 times for 318 yards and five scores, including a key 88-yard touchdown, to help the Fightin’ Planets to a 34-20 victory.

Ruffner, who ran for 273 yards and five touchdowns last week against Armstrong, said his success comes from “great blocking up front” and an ability to mix speed and power that “a lot of kids don’t have.”

“The whole team was physical tonight. We had some trouble early, but we started picking up the blitzes and our blocking was really good to give me holes to run,” Ruffner said. “The long touchdown was huge. It completely changed the momentum and got everyone energized.”

Trailing 20-6 at halftime, Shaler needed a big drive to open the second half to stay in the game.

After a rough start — a muff on the kick return resulting in starting at its own 13-yard line — the Titans went on to bust off a 17-play, 87-yard scoring drive that took up 7 minutes, 17 seconds to bring the game to a one-score deficit.

“That’s one of the strong points to our offense. When we’re clicking, we can put on a drive like that,” said third-year Shaler head coach Jim Ryan. “With the combination of skill players we have to make up some ground, and our offensive line firing, it made for a great drive.”

It was after a Shaler stop, followed by a Mars’ stop, that Ruffner re-flipped the momentum, scoring from 88 yards out to put the home Planets back up two scores.

“We are proud of the way our kids reacted,” said 28th-year Mars coach Scott Heinauer. “That drive by them took almost the whole third quarter. We felt that we needed to answer, and it was hard, but we had the big play to turn the tide. We gained control of the momentum and took it back.”

Mars scored the first two touchdowns of the contest, getting touchdown runs of 3 and 12 yards from Ruffner in the first 14 minutes, 10 seconds of the game.

That’s when Shaler struck. With 4:26 left in the second quarter, Darin Mizgorski tossed the first of his two touchdown passes, hooking up with tight end Logan Bernesser for a 22-yard score to pull the Titans within eight, with the point after failing.

Ruffner added a 2-yard score a few minutes later, and Mars took a 20-6 lead to the locker room.

After the 17-play scoring drive and the long Ruffner touchdown, Shaler’s Jake Miller scored on a 26-yard run to bring the game to a seven-point deficit once the conversion for two was successful, but a 22-yard run by Ruffner on fourth-and-1 from the Shaler 23 iced it away.

Ruffner then scored his fifth touchdown from a yard out to bring the game to its final.

Mizgorski threw for 268 yards on 16 of 31 passing, including the two touchdowns and a late interception. Eight of the completions went to Joey Impavido, who ended up with 125 yards on the eight catches.

“I’m proud of the offense for getting going a little bit,” Ryan said. “It took some time to get Darin going, but once the gets settled down, he’s a dangerous quarterback. He’s everything you want out of a team leader. He and Joey have played together for a long time. It’s almost like they’re thinking on the same page all the time.”

The senior leaders, according to Ryan, told the team to keep their heads up, as Shaler looks to continue to play strong football and try to get a playoff berth for the second straight season. The Titans haven’t made back-to-back trips to the postseason since 2008-09.

“Given the kind of program and team that Mars is, we have to take this for what it is worth,” Ryan said. “When you look at the big picture, you can handle it. We’re taking the steps in the right direction, and we’re going to keep growing.”

Shaler heads home next week to play Armstrong, while Mars has a road tilt with North Hills at Martorellli Stadium.

“This was a big swing game,” Heinauer said. “Now we have the game with North Hills. … It’ll be a dogfight down there.”

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