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Football: Mars running back joins 400-yard club

Monday, October 14, 2002

By Mike White, Post-Gazette Sports Writer

Thirty-one years ago, North Allegheny's Brian Baschnagel was the first WPIAL running back to rush for 400 yards in a game. In the next 25 seasons, only one other area running back accomplished that feat.

But in the past six seasons, six runners have gained 400 yards in a game, including two this season. The latest to do it was Mars' Brad Mueller, who rushed for 403 yards on 27 carries in a 46-30 victory against Apollo-Ridge Friday night.

Mueller is the eighth WPIAL running back to gain 400 yards in a game. Quaker Valley's James Rockymore did it earlier this season with 411. The others to gain 400 in the past six seasons are: Connellsville's Marcus Furman (455) in 2000, Hempfield's Matt Steve (446) in 1999, Fort Cherry's Mike Vernillo (424) in 1997 and Woodland Hills' Brandon Payne (405) in 1997. Baschnagel gained 409 yards in 1971 and Laurel Highlands' Jim Smith rushed for 413 in 1989.

Mueller had more than 400 yards midway through the fourth quarter against Apollo-Ridge. He had scored on a 43-yard run earlier in the quarter and Mars Coach Scott Heinauer was thinking about taking Mueller out of the game because he had leg cramps. But Mars statistician Dave Kuremsky got word to Heinauer that Mueller had 375 yards rushing.

"I really didn't know he had that much," Heinauer said. "I thought he pulled a hamstring, but when I asked him what was wrong, he said it was just cramps. When I found out he had 375, I said to him, 'Listen, you have 375 yards. Do you think you can go out there one more time for 400?' He said he thought he could do it."

A few minutes later, Mueller passed 400 yards, and then scored his seventh touchdown on a 1-yard run. His other touchdown runs were 65, 54, 4, 54, 6 and 42 yards.

Mueller is the PIAA Class AA 100-meter dash champion and has football scholarship offers from Boston College, Maryland and West Virginia. He is being recruited as either a receiver or defensive back.

Mueller's big game was a much-needed shot in the arm for Mars' offense, which has struggled scoring points this season. The Planets were the Post-Gazette's No. 3-ranked WPIAL Class AA team at the start of the season, but are only 4-3. Mars should make the WPIAL playoffs.

Two new No. 1s

Thomas Jefferson is the new No. 1 team in WPIAL Class AAA. The Jaguars moved up one spot after Hopewell lost to New Castle, 18-0. New Castle went from No. 4 to No. 2.

Rochester is the new No. 1 team in WPIAL Class A. The Rams moved up one spot after Monaca lost at Western Beaver. Rochester was the No. 1 team at the start of the season, but dropped after losing to New Brighton the first week of the season.

Mike White can be reached at mwhite@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1975.

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