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Comeback Kids: Mars boys rally to beat Northern York, 2-1, to capture first-ever PIAA title

File Photo courtesy of Ed Thompson
PIAA Boys Class 3A Soccer Final

FINAL: Mars 2, Northern York 1

Two weeks ago, when trailing 1-0 at the half to highly touted Franklin Regional in the WPIAL Class 3A boys soccer final, Mars turned the match in its favor in the second half to get the equalizer, then the game-winner in extra time.

Once again, this time in Hershey at the half in the PIAA final, Mars were trailing 1-0 to Northern York.

And again, they found a way, with Dane Beller scoring twice within four minutes, to overcome another deficit in a championship game, this time beating the Polar Bears, 2-1 to win the state championship.

PIAA Postgame with Mars Head Coach Chris Knauff

Gameday Updates


78′ – Mars is taking time off the clock. NY is frustrated and fouling. Another free kick here for Mars. Yellow card handed out to Ashton Davies

70′ – Ashton Davies collides with the Mars goalie Gareis. Mars players not happy about it

66′ – DANE BELLER SCORES AGAIN!! What a build up play there from the Planets. Lahlou passed it up to Nymberg who let it roll through his legs. Beller received it, took a touch to the right and beat the goalie.

62′ – GOAL FOR DANE BELLER!! He heads it in up close off a great cross from Devin Shupp! Tie game now!

55′ – Nymberg with a shot. Good save from Hoffman

53′ – Mars creates a chance but the refs call a high kick. Singh played it into Nymberg. Singh’s leg was high in the air near a player but he didn’t hit him at all. Nymberg legitimately hat a chance there. Don’t agree with that call.

51′ – Dane Beller is given a yellow card. That’s his third foul in this half already.


33′ – Nicholas Porter on Mars is given a yellow card. He’ll be out the rest of the first half probably

32′ – Three subs in for Mars. Northern York had a free kick chance but Nabil Lahlou read it well and stole the ball

Be sure to check back here, as we’ll be providing game updates here shortly after kickoff.

Match Preview – Mars (19-0) vs Northern York (19-0-1)

Mars will counter with solid defense that includes plenty of senior leadership — and a balanced scoring attack which turned things up a notch when trailing Franklin Regional early in the second half in the final.

In his first two years as Mars’ coach, Chris Knauff won back-to-back WPIAL titles in 2007 and 2008. The furthest the program advanced in the PIAA’s was to the final in 2007, where they lost to Palmyra, 2-0, but in all these years under Knauff, Mars has won 10 section titles and made the playoffs in every one of his 14 seasons.

Interview with Mars’ Head Coach Chris Knauff

With a win on Tuesday, the Fighting Planets will win its first ever PIAA title.

It hasn’t been an easy road to the final for Mars, that’s for sure.

To win its first WPIAL Boys Class 3A title since 2008, Mars had to fend off section rival Hampton (beating them in close games three times), then held off a tough challenge from Section 2 South Fayette in the semifinal — and eventually beat highly vaunted, two-time WPIAL champs Franklin Regional in a thriller in the WPIAL final.

Senior Dane Beller led Mars in scoring in the regular season with 26 goals and registered a hat trick in the quarterfinal victory over Hollidaysburg.

Junior Eli Wright and senior Nabil Lahlou tallied goals in the state semifinal, 2-1 win over Cathedral Prep. As mentioned previously, The Fightin’ Planets are tough to score on — as they have only allowed eight goals all year and registered shutouts in their first 10 games.

Northern York are the District 3 champions, and had to beat a familiar school in PIAA soccer hierarchy, Fleetwood, 2-1, in the District championship game to get into the PIAA tournament.

The Polar Bears — that’s right — another great school nickname — trailed 1-0 in their state semifinal match against Upper Moreland before scoring four unanswered goals — all coming from seniors:  Spencer Silverling, Connor Swope, Shepard Soisson and junior Zach French.

To Mask or Not to Mask? 

There was some question about whether players would be wearing masks, in light of PA mandate that begins on Friday.

In light of new PA mandate, players may (or may not) be wearing masks at PIAA Soccer Finals

Mars Athletic Director Scott Heinauer shared this with Pittsburgh Soccer Now this morning:

“Mars athletes have a wavier from our solicitor saying that our players are not mandated to wear face coverings while playing a sport however if they choose to do so they may do so.”

Game officials and all players and coaches on the benches will be required to wear a mask.



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