The George Mason High School varsity football team traveled to Dominion High School for its season opener Monday night only to lose a heartbreaker in overtime 14-13. It was a game that Mason could have won, leaving players, coaches, fans and the cheer team disappointed on the first night of the 2006 gridiron campaign.
The loss didn’t step from lack of effort or production. The Mason Mustangs unofficially out-produced the Dominion Titans in total yards 223 to 125. Also, on six of 10 possessions, Mason started inside Dominion territory. However, the Mustangs would only convert one such drive into a touchdown during regulation, when junior quarterback Michael Schwengel scored from 16 yards out. Senior guard and linebacker Ben Zorn, who also punts and kicks off, added the point-after-touchdown for the 7-0 lead early in the first quarter.
The Dominion Titans featured an option offense that was frequently disrupted by a slew of Mason’s senior defenders, including Judah Chandler, Ed Hickey, Ryan Larcamp, Cody Roden-Reynolds and Zorn, as well as junior Brady Hatfield. Though Mason was finding it difficult to add to its lead, the defense kept the game in check by harassing the Titans’ quarterback into a number of hurried passes and producing a number of tackles in the backfield for losses. The effort also resulted in two recovered two fumbles and an interception.
It was not until mid way through the fourth quarter when the Titans finally scored. Up to that point the Titans had gained less than 80 total yards, but in the closing quarter a defensive positioning lapse enabled a Titan ball carrier to scamper 46 yards up the sideline and into the end zone to tie the game 7-7.
“We have a number of players playing on varsity for the first time and some of our returning players playing different positions so there is a lot that is new this year,” said Mustangs Head Coach Tom Horn. “Our team has worked really hard to get ready for this season and we have nothing to be discouraged about – but there is a lot about the pace of the game and game situations at full speed that we need to work on this week.”
Following the Titans’ touchdown, the Mustangs immediately went back to work, moving the ball from the Dominion 40-yard line down to the 10-yard line. With only a few seconds left on the game clock, Zorn’s would-be game winning field goal sailed left of the uprights, forcing overtime.
With each team given four plays to score from 10 yards out in high school overtime, Mason took the first possession and converted — but they could not convert the point-after-touchdown, leaving Mason with a 13-7 lead. For three plays the Mustangs held the Titans out of the end zone, but with their final play the Titans pushed up the middle of the line from three yards out for the score. A converted point-after kick accounted for the final score, 14-13.
Monday’s game was originally scheduled for last Friday night, but because of Tropical Storm Ernesto the game was pushed back to Monday. The change means this will be a short week of preparation for Mason. On Friday, Mason will host neighbor J.E.B. Stuart High School. The ticket gate at Moore Cadillac Stadium opens at 6:45pm and kickoff is at 7:30pm.
Friday’s game will be the first game played on the new GMHS state-of-the-art artificial turf. Partly because of the heavy rain on Tuesday, the there is a chance the field will not be ready for the weekend. For up to date progress updates, check the George Mason homepage at www.fccps.k12.va.us/gm/ and follow the Sports or Athletic Boosters links.
Mason 2006 graduate Travis Greene has made the Elon College (N.C.) football team and is starting on special teams. With 90 players on the roster it is significant for a freshman to be given this opportunity.