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Mars travels to Indiana for Greater Allegheny opener

Conference Clash

It is said that the best defense is a good offense.

Indiana’s football team took that to heart last week when the Little Indians faced the very potent passing attack of Shady Side Academy.

Through the first two weeks of the season, Bulldogs’ quarterback Devin Harris had passed for 761 yards and 10 touchdowns, but was kept on the sideline for much of his team’s encounter with Indiana.

Mars’ Evan Wright (2) looks to make use of a block from teammate Blake Yates during a game against Montour last month. The Planets will be in search of a third straight victory when they travel to Indiana on Friday. Steven Dalton/Special to the Eagle

Running back Levi Porter romped for 243 yards and four touchdowns as Indiana earned a 31-21 win.

Harris was held to just 106 yards on eight completions and SSA did not score an offensive touchdown until the fourth quarter.

“We frustrated them,” said Indiana coach Brad Wright. “They had just one offensive possession in the first half, scored on a fumble return and a kickoff return. When they did have the ball, we played a nickel coverage and they weren’t expecting it.”

Indiana (2-1) will attempt to keep another high-octane offense on the sideline when it plays host to Mars (2-1) in the Greater Allegheny Conference opener for both teams Friday night.

Balance has been key thus far for the Planets. Quarterback Luke Goodworth has thrown for 646 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions. Senior running back Evan Wright is on pace for his second straight 1,000-yard rushing season, putting up 383 yards and eight scores.

“We feel we gave away the game against Montour (a 37-28 loss Aug. 25),” said Planets coach Eric Kasperowicz. “But since then, I feel we’re moving in the right direction and I like where we are.”

Gabe Hein is following up a breakout freshman campaign with more impressive numbers. He leads all WPIAL receivers with 22 catches for 375 yards and three touchdowns. Senior Aidan Alessio has added 10 catches for 178 yards and a pair of scores.

“He’s stronger, faster and spent the offseason honing his craft,” Kasperowicz said of Alessio. “He’s a nice complement to Gabe and we didn’t have that last year.

“Last year, it was either Evan or Eric (Kasperowicz) running the ball or Gabe catching it. Now it’s tough for defenses to zero in on just one guy.”

The Mars defense will have its hands full against an Indiana team with its own weapons.

Aside from Porter, quarterback Trevor has contributed 133 yards and a touchdown on the ground. He’s passed for 389 yards and five scores.

“They run an offense very similar to us, a spread no-huddle,” said Kasperowicz. “They want to get the ball to their skill guys in space and have a great running back. We’ll have our hands full.”

Leading Indiana’s front is center Ben Cochran (6-foot-1, 280 pounds) and tackle Colden Augustine (6-4, 220).

“The rest of our line isn’t big, 6-foot, 200-pound guys, but they’re quick and athletic,” Wright said. “Coach Kasperowicz is one of the most intelligent defensive minds in the WPIAL. Mars sends guys from all directions and they play multiple fronts.”

Kasperowicz is impressed with the play of his defensive line, which includes ends Isaak Winters and Connor Hartle and tackles Xander Painley and Adam Budzilek. Hartle has three of the team’s nine sacks.

“They’ve been tremendous the last two weeks (in wins over New Castle and Blackhawk),” said Kasperowicz. “They’re all doing their job and playing for each other.

“Isaak missed the second half against Montour and all of the New Castle game, but came back last week and played really well.”

The Planets have forced six turnovers in three games, including five fumbles.

Mars shut out the Little Indians last year, 37-0.

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