Thomas Jefferson, Mars running games out of this world |
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Zane Zandier intercepts a pass in the second quarter last week against Moon. Zandier, a 6-foot-1, 175-pound sophomore, returned it 75 yards for a touchdown.

Forget their seeding.

The No. 10 Mars Fightin’ Planets proved their mettle last week in the first round of the WPIAL playoffs.

Mars (7-3) socked No. 7 Montour, 42-27, in the Class AAA first round behind senior fullback Ori Rinaman, who scored all six of his team’s touchdowns.

The Planets will meet No. 2 Thomas Jefferson at 7:30 p.m. Friday in a WPIAL Class AAA quarterfinal-round game at Chartiers Valley High School.

The 6-foot, 190-pound Rinaman finished with 239 yards rushing on 34 carries and scored on runs of 3, 6, 9, 21, 35 and 5 yards against Montour.

He started the year as a wing back and moved to fullback — the featured position in Mars’ offense — when teammate Josh Schultheis was lost for the season with a broken leg in Week 1.

Schultheis had rushed for 3,332 yards and 51 touchdowns the two previous seasons.

Rinaman has picked up 1,241 yards and 22 touchdowns on 201 carries in 2014.

“They run the wing-T and are very good at it,” Bill Cherpak, Thomas Jefferson’s head coach, said. “They were highly ranked to start the season, and had some key injuries. Most of their players are back now and they have been playing better. It will be a challenge to stop them.”

Thomas Jefferson’s strength also is in its running game.

The Jaguars (10-0) rushed for 459 yards on 47 carries as a team in last week’s 49-14 playoff win against No. 15 Moon, and did not attempt one pass.

TJ senior running back Austin Kemp rumbled for 224 yards and three touchdowns — all in the first half — against the Tigers.

Sophomore Quinton Hill added 170 rushing yards and two touchdowns last week, including a 48-yard touchdown jaunt on the Jaguars’ first play of the game.

Kemp (1,794 yards) and Hill (709 yards) have combined for 2,503 yards and 47 touchdowns this season.

Kemp leads the WPIAL in scoring with 36 touchdowns; Hill has scored 11 times.

“We will have to play mistake free on offense to move the ball on them,” Cherpak said. “Everyone is putting 10 or 11 guys in the box on us now.”

Thomas Jefferson was sparked defensively against Moon by a 75-yard second-quarter interception return for a touchdown by sophomore Zane Zandier, who also capped his team’s scoring with a 10-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Junior linebacker Braden Pahanish led the Jaguars in tackles and was credited with two sacks.

Pahanish was complemented by senior linebacker Kyle Senich, sophomore linebacker Luke Petruzzi, senior defensive end Russell Siess and junior defensive back Cameron Dallessandro.

Mars finished in fourth place in the Greater Allegheny Conference, behind Hampton, Franklin Regional and Indiana.

The Planets, who dealt No. 4 Hampton its only loss of the year in the final week of the regular season, are averaging 30.9 ppg offensively and 12.4 ppg defensively.

Thomas Jefferson ranks among the WPIAL leaders with a 47 ppg offensive average and 9 ppg defensive average.

The Jaguars have scored 40 or more points nine times this season.

Trib Total Media contributed to this story. Ray Fisher is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at 412-388-5820 or [email protected].

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