Traditionally, the double-wing offense installed by Mason High School Head Coach Tom Horn relies on ball control on the ground, as the running attack simultaneously bewilders and wears down the opposition. However, in the Mustangs' season opening meeting with cross-town rival J.E.B. Stuart High School, it was a potent passing game, sprinkled in with some big runs that ultimately spelled victory for the Mustangs, 53-20.
Mason senior quarterback Mike Schwengel showcased his passing abilities, completing all six of his passes for a total of 109 yards, including two touchdown strikes to junior Joel Chandler.
Chandler displayed what Horn referred to as “pure athleticism” on the night, hauling in four passes for 89 yards and rushing five times for 31 yards and three total touchdowns.
While the offense was seemingly firing on all cylinders, it was a key defensive play early in the game for George Mason that turned the momentum in the favor of the Single A squad and against the AAA Raiders.
From the opening kick-off, J.E.B. Stuart began a march down their home field, aided by a 25-yard burst by junior transfer Terrill Hawkins. Hawkins, who comes to Stuart from Paul VI High School, finished the day with 83 yards on the ground.
However, just as Stuart reached the Mustang 20-yard line, a crucial fumble by the Raiders turned the ball and quite possibly, the game over to Mason. Senior Barratt Kennett pounced on the loose ball and came out of the pile with it raised in the air.
“It’s simple. Barratt was the game-changer,” said Horn. “He not only changed the game completely with that fumble recovery, but played great the rest of the game. Who knows what would’ve happened had [Stuart] scored on the opening drive.”
From that point on, the Mustangs offense was a juggernaut and would not be denied a season-opening victory in their quest to defend their Bull-Run District title.
Although it looked like an early holding penalty might quell their first drive, junior John Mann punched the ball in from 10 yards out as the first quarter wound down. An offsides penalty by Stuart and a subsequent two-point conversion by brother Charlie Mann gave the Mustangs an eight point lead early.
One year after shutting out the Raiders 42-0, Mason’s vaunted defense clamped down on the Stuart offense led by Hawkins and senior quarterback Thinh Trinh.
Trinh was 8-for-17 in the air, passing for 145 yards and two touchdowns. However, his efficiency in Stuart’s unusual spread shotgun offense was too little too late for the Raiders to salvage any points to contest Mason.
On Stuart’s first drive in the second half, Trinh hit running back Anthony Champ for a big 20-yard gain, followed by a 43-yard toss to senior John Wolfe to put the Raiders on the board for the first time. Wolfe beat Mason's Mike Schwengel, lined up at safety on the defensive side of the ball, in single coverage and Trinh found him open near the end-zone.
The Raiders' second, and only, rushing touchdown came on their next drive, as they marched down to the one-yard line, where Trinh promptly snuck into the end zone.
While J.E.B. Stuart struggled to muster an answer to Mason’s early points, Coach Horn’s squad had little trouble putting points on the board. After John Mann’s early score, Schwengel and Charlie Mann converted a fourth down pass play to put them in the red zone.
Just a few plays later, senior Sean Mondragon bulldozed his way to pay dirt for a four-yard touchdown run. Turning the corner on the outside of the line, Mondragon trucked past two Stuart defenders to give Mason a 15-0 lead.
Once again, a Stuart punt paved the way for a Mason score. This time, however, the score was not on the ground, but rather, a 50-yard strike from Schwengel to Chandler. After running the ball for most of the first half, Schwengel’s play-action fake had the Stuart defense in disarray, leaving Chandler wide open for the score.
With six seconds left in the first half, the Mustangs added to their hefty lead, going up 28-0 at the break by way of another pass from Schwengel to Chandler. As time expired, Schwengel hurled the ball towards the back of the endzone where Chandler leaped over two Raider defenders for the 21-yard score.
Junior Antoneo Folks displayed the talent he had flashed as an occasional starter last year, rushing for 118 yards and a touchdown. Folks’ score, a one-yard burst, was just the icing on the cake for him, as he had runs of 14, 13, 21, and 25 yards on the day.
“Antoneo ran the ball extremely well in the second half,” said Horn. “John Mann also had an extremely good day on the ground.”
John Mann finished the game with 57 yards and a touchdown, while Charlie Mann finished with 81 yards and a score. Mondragon’s day ended with 26 yards on the ground and a trip to the end zone.
Late in the game, after an onside kick by Stuart fell one yard short of the necessary 10 yards, Chandler punched the ball in from nine yards out behind a solid wall of Mason lineman, led by senior Austin Lucas, to put his team up 47-14.
“Austin was a rock today,” commented Horn following the game. “All of our success was aided by his great play.”
Success on the ground was probably an understatement for the Mustangs, as they rushed 47 times for 374 yards, racking up an average of eight yards a carry.
Mason’s final score was set up by a 27-yard run by senior Graham Colton, his only carry of the day, followed up with a score by junior Keller Godwin from eight yards out.
On its final possession of the day, Stuart appeared to be halted in a last-ditch effort to put points up on the board, as Mason senior Ted Peetz stopped Hawkins for a five yard loss. However, Trinh’s pass into the back of the end zone to Wolfe for a second time as time expired pushed the final score to 53-20.
In his post-game talk with his squad, Horn commented that their “next six opponents all expect to win their respective district.” Page County, the Mustangs next match-up, returns nine players back on offense and ten on defense.
“Tonight, we played like we expected to win, but in order to get further we have to do the little things well,” said Horn. “We didn’t tackle well, had various personnel issues which resulted in blocked kicks. Basically, it was a typical first game for a Single A team, where some little aspects get left out.”
Mason will battle Page County this Friday at home at 7:30 p.m., the only team on their schedule this year whom Mason did not face last year.
“Page brings a lot to the table, so we’re going to have to make some quality adjustments,” said Horn. “We definitely can’t give up long drives like we did on [Stuart’s] first possession, because teams will make us pay.”
The Raiders will travel to face McLean High School Friday at 7:30 p.m.