Mars’ Jake Dufford is brought down in the Planets’ game against Knoch earlier this month. Mars will travel to Hampton Friday with the Greater Allegheny Conference championship title on the line.
ADAMS TWP — A regular-season finale for all the marbles — when it comes to the Greater Allegheny Conference, that’s what will be at stake when Mars’ football team travels to Hampton Friday night. Both teams enter the game with a 6-1 conference record and the winner will claim the Greater Allegheny title outright. “We’ve played well in the conference and this is a good opportunity for our kids,” said Planets’ coach Scott Heinauer. “It will have a lot to do with the seeding. A loss could drop us to fourth in the conference if everything else shakes down a certain way.” Both Mars and Hampton are 7-1 overall and posted impressive victories last week. The Planets outgained host Hollidaysburg 454-128 in a 49-7 rout while the Talbots toppled playoff-bound Franklin Regional 17-13, knocking the Panthers out of the conference title race. Mars’ win came after the team’s lone loss of the season, a 21-0 defeat to Knoch Oct. 12. Planets’ fullback Josh Schultheis was held to a season-low 71 yards in that game, but responded with 202 yards and a pair of touchdowns last Friday. “We were pleased to get back on track last week, offensively and defensively,” said Heinauer, who knows his squad will be facing a red-hot Hampton team. After being upset by Greensburg Salem Sept. 14, the Talbots have reeled off five straight wins while giving up an average of just 11 points per game. “Offensively, we have to stay on our blocks,” allowed Heinauer. “Hampton is technically sound on defense and they’re well-coached. In that respect, they are a lot like Knoch and Franklin Regional. The Talbots’ offense has been transformed since 2011. “Last year, they were an I-formation team with (two tight ends),” allowed Heinauer. “They would throw the ball when they had to. Now they run a spread. They can still run the ball, but they have done a good job of allowing all of their athletes to make plays and are harder to defend.” Senior quarterback Jon Nigro guides Hampton’s attack and has thrown for 909 yards and six touchdowns. His top targets are all juniors — wideouts Eddie Edwards, Jon Floss and Collin Luther have combined for 41 catches for 757 yards. The Talbots’ ground game is headed by two seniors in Anthony Bianco (551 yards) and Frank Bello (279). Both have scored eight touchdowns. The Planets will look to get off to a fast start in hostile territory. “Establishing the tempo is very important,” Heinauer said. “I’m a big believer that scoring first is big.” Since becoming conference foes with Hampton in 2008, the Planets have defeated the Talbots three out of four times. Mars won last year’s meeting 10-7. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.