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Mars makes PIAA boys lacrosse Class 2A title game for 4th straight year, facing Marple Newtown ... again

WEXFORD — Mars does not often have its back against the wall on the lacrosse field, but that’s exactly where the Planets found themselves early in Tuesday’s PIAA Class 2A boys semifinal against South Fayette.

The Lions, who lost to the Planets 16-5 in last month’s WPIAL championship game, came out on fire, building a 5-0 lead just over eight minutes into the contest.

“They changed some matchups with who was guarding who from the last time we played them,” said Mars coach Bob Marcoux. “Momentum in lacrosse is all about putting the ball in the net and we hung our heads a bit, but responded well.”

The response was incredibly impressive, but not surprising from a loaded Mars squad.

Beginning with Ian Coulter’s unassisted goal from 10 yards out with just over two minutes left in the opening quarter, the Planets scored 20 of the next 23 goals in a 20-10 defeat of the Lions at North Allegheny’s Newman Stadium.

The victory sends Mars to the state championship game for the fourth straight year.

Related Article: Head of the Class Related Article: Yoshioka leader of stingy defense for Mars boys lax Related Article: PIAA boys lacrosse: Mars, led by Blitz Boys, crushes Devon Prep to make Class 2A semifinals again

“I looked up at the scoreboard when it was 5-0 and realized if we don’t get this done, it’s the end of our season,” said Coulter. “I didn’t want that to happen.”

Coulter spearheaded the Mars effort, scoring a game-high six goals, including two more in the first half to help the Planets lead 7-6 at the break.

Also scoring to aid the resurgence were Dylan Phillips, Ryan Blake, Jack Tirch and Cole Yoshioka.

“When we pulled even at 5-5, it was like the start of a new game,” said Yoshioka. “It was like it was 0-0 and we could just play our game from there.”

Mars' Enzo Grieco (24) takes a shot in a PIAA Class 2A boys lacrosse tournament semifinal Tuesday against South Fayette at Newman Stadium in Wexford, Pa. Jared Todhunter / The Butler Eagle

South Fayette’s Wade Scholar and Makar scored to briefly give the lead back to the Lions, 8-7, early in the third quarter, but Mars broke the Lions’ spirit by scoring the next 13 goals, including three from senior Enzo Grieco.

Spreng, who was facing heavy fire early on, came up with a number of saves to help Mars retain control.

As usual, Jack McKenzie was dominating faceoffs and often gave the ball right back to his teammates shortly after they had scored.

“He’s incredible,” South Fayette coach Shawn Leydig said of McKenzie. “You’re talking about a guy who wins about 90 percent of the faceoffs he takes.”

The Planets were getting shots off from the start of the game. Most were off the mark and goalie Travis Watkins stopped three others to keep Mars off the scoreboard. Meanwhile, Bryce Watkins and Drew Welhorsky both beat Mars goalie Luke Spreng twice and Owen Makar once to put the Planets on their heels.

“We came out inspired and wanted to keep the momentum from (beating) Trinity (10-9 in Saturday’s quarterfinal),” said Leydig.

“We didn’t match their energy at the start of the game,” said Yoshioka. “They were playing with tenacity all over the field.”

Travis Watkins stopped 16 shots for the Lions, who were led on offense by three goals apiece from Makar and Welhorsky.

Phillips scored four times in the win. Sean Brennan and McKenzie both added a goal.

For the third straight year, the Planets will face Marple Newtown for the state title. The teams will square off at noon Saturday at Penn State University’s Panzer Stadium. The Planets defeated the Tigers for the crown in 2022 and lost in the final last year.

“This will be my last high school game,” said Yoshioka, a senior. “I’m excited about it and do not plan on leaving without a championship.”

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