Bolstered by the return of a host of starters from injuries, the George Mason High School varsity football team edged No. 5 Madison County, 25-19, before a record crowd of roughly 1,200 at the Mustangs’ homecoming game last Friday.
Mike Schwengel, Cody Reynolds, Judah Chandler, Joel Chandler, and Phil Allen all made their returns for the Mustangs, while Mason High senior Eddie Huber starred on offense for the second straight week, carrying the ball 25 times for 149 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead the Mustangs (2-4, 1-0 Bull Run) in an upset over one of Virginia’s top Single A teams.
A sloppy start, which featured a pair of Madison fumbles recovered by Mason’s Austin Lewis and a Mustang interception on the game’s first three possessions, was quickly forgotten when Schwengel put the ball on his hip and the Mustangs on the board with 8:32 left in the first quarter. On fourth down and four from the Madison 41-yard line, Schwengel faked a hand off and then bootlegged outside of the left tackle, utilizing both his speed and his teammates’ blocks as he sprinted to pay dirt.
Mason’s offense kept its foot down on the ensuing possession. Starting with the ball on their own 18 yard line, Mason’s Huber broke free on a run between the tackles for 46 yards to push the ball into Madison territory. Following a 13-yard reception by senior Cody Reynolds, Huber pushed the ball across the goal line to give Mason a 13-0 lead with 2:48 remaining in the opening quarter.
Madison County (4-2, 0-1) rebounded quickly, boosted by a long return by senior Adam Jemerison to the Mason 45 yard line, and just before the first quarter expired, Madison’s Logan Terrell broke through the left side of the Mustang defense to find the end zone. After the extra point was blocked, the Mountaineers found themselves trailing 13-6 and with possession of the ball, as a reinvigorated Madison defense forced the Mustangs to go three and out.
But the Mason defense was similarly equal to the task, forcing a punt after three plays. From there, the Mustang running backs went to work, stringing together long runs from sophomore Antoneo Folks, Huber and a 35-yard dash, including a brutal straight arm, by sophomore Joel Chandler, to bring the ball inside the Mountaineers’ six yard line. A pair of pushes from Huber and Mason regained its 13-point lead.
But again Madison would answer following a short, seemingly onside kick attempt by the Mustangs.
“We don’t kick it all that well and we haven’t been covering kicks as well as we’ve been playing defense so we’ve gone to ‘short kicks’ — not necessarily ‘on-side,’ but if we get a lucky bounce we might get the ball,” Mason Head Coach Tom Horn said. “If we don’t, then we play defense from about the 35 and we’re okay with that.”
This time, however, the Mountaineers took full advantage of the short field and two plays later, Madison struck back on a 46-yard pass from Daniel Woodward to Wayne Williams to pull it back within six at half time. The Mountaineers then tied it in the third with a one-yard touchdown pass by Woodward to Williams on fourth down with 3:33 remaining in the quarter. Again, however, the Mustangs blocked the point-after to keep the score knotted at 19.
Disaster nearly ensued for the Mustangs when a fumbled kickoff was recovered by the Mountaineers at the Mason 22 yard line. In a pivotal stand, the Mason secondary stiffened and forced three incompletions on the series to reclaim the ball on downs. With the momentum in their favor, Schwengel connected with Reynolds on a 40-yard pass play and then Folks broke into the end zone on a sweep to reclaim the lead for Mason and account for the game’s final score. The Mustangs got two more defensive stops, including a pair of key sacks on the Mountaineers’ final drive to ice the victory.
“We held the ball in the fourth quarter and that’s the best way to play defense (with the ball in your hands) — second thing was pressure on the quarterback,” Horn said of how his team was able to curb the Mountaineer offense late in the game. “We also changed our personnel a bit in the second half and played some veterans in the secondary which allowed us to bring pressure from places we didn’t bring it early — I think that caused some confusion on the last two drives.”
After the game, Horn noted that while the return of previously injured players did lift the team, the Mustangs also benefited from the experience their replacements received in the starters’ absence.
“We’ve played pretty banged up for a couple of weeks and we got better during those weeks,” Horn said. “Our younger players got better and that means we have more kids ready to play. And you know where that helps the most? At practice — our scout team is better and those guys went hard this week to get the returning guys ready — they have a huge part in this win.”
While the homecoming victory is a clear hallmark in a year that has seen the Mustangs scuffle through their early-season schedule, Horn is keeping the win in perspective as his team moves on to its next Bull Run game.
“This is not a team that is thinking about postseason. We were 1-4 coming in and we’ve had it handed to us a couple of times. We’re just trying to play physical football, minimize the mistakes and come out proud of our effort,” Horn said. “Madison has earned the right to talk playoffs even after the loss Friday — we’ve earned the right to play Rappahannock this week.”
Notes: According to the George Mason High School Athletic Department, the approximately 1,200 fans at Friday’s game are the most ever to attend a Mustang athletic contest in the past 11 years.
• The Friday win extends Mason High’s streak to ten straight in homecoming games dating back to a 1997 victory over Colonial Beach, 20-6. The game against Madison County was just the second time that Mason had allowed more than seven points to its homecoming adversary during that stretch.