Arts & Entertainment

Mustangs Turn

 With the humid air and hot temperatures inflicting cramps on the players from both squads, the heat seemed to rub off on the George Mason High School varsity football team. The Mustangs' offense caught fire early, scoring a touchdown on their second play from scrimmage en route to a 42-19 drubbing of Region B opponent Page County High School last Friday night at home.

Mustang junior Charlie Mann led the offensive attack with 180 yards rushing and three touchdowns, and while the offense scored early and often, miscues on the part of the Panthers, who turned the ball over five times, contributed to the lopsided score.

From the opening kickoff, it was evident that Page County mistakes would lead to Mason touchdowns, as a penalty placed the Mustangs at their own 35 to start. Folks nearly took it the distance on the first play from scrimmage, rushing for a 26-yard gain down to the Panther 39, after which Mann promptly burst up the middle past a fooled secondary for the touchdown.

Traditionally Page County runs a power-I offense, but they quickly abandoned that game plan after being shut down by the Mason front three. When Panther quarterback Dakota Wolf did drop back to pass, he was usually flushed out of the pocket and forced to settle for short gains from scrambling.

After Mann’s first scoring burst, Mason’s next two touchdowns came on plays designed to achieve only minimal yards in order to get a first down. However, stellar blocking by the Mason offensive line, led by senior Austin Lucas, created touchdown opportunities.

The first of these came on Mason’s subsequent drive, as Charlie Mann burst up the middle untouched on fourth down for a 57 yard score. His brother John Mann converted the two-point conversion, as he put his hand on the back of lead blocker Sean Mondragon and plowed over the goal line.

After a three-and-out by the Panthers, Mustang offensive coordinator Chris Capannola wasted little time calling another designed short-yardage play that went for a long score. Senior quarterback Mike Schwengel took one step back, relayed the ball on a screen to junior Joel Chandler, whose sheer athleticism promptly allowed him to shake one defender and outrace the defense for an 80-yard score. 

“Only because our offense scored so quickly did the game go our way,” said Mustang Head Coach Tom Horn. “Our mindset was great. We knew we wanted to play and we wanted to win.”

For the first time all night, the Mustangs' offense stalled and was forced to punt on their next drive. However, they received a gift, as the Panther kick-returner coughed up the ball, giving Mason prime field position. From three yards out, bruiser Mondragon punched it in. Sophomore Manuel Veiga-Diaz converted the PAT, of which he had four on the night.

In their first game against J.E.B. Stuart, it was a crucial fumble recovery early by senior Barratt Kennett which turned the tide in favor for the Mustangs. While it was not a game-decider, Kennett still managed to make his presence known on defense, pouncing on a loose ball on Page County’s first play of their next possession.

Although the Panthers could not muster a drive to enter Mason’s territory until late in the second quarter, their last drive of the half was a productive one. A 22-yard option reverse by sophomore running back Allen Coulde finally got the ball past midfield, after which Wolf dashed up the middle on another option for a 43 yard score.

In the second half, the effects of the humidity began to take hold, as numerous players went down with cramps. Mustang senior Brady Hatfield even threw up on the sideline in his first game back from an MCL injury, but the gritty lineman managed to reenter the game and played the rest of the contest.

The Panthers seemed to catch a new wind at the start of the second half, as they drove to Mason’s 27 yard line. However, on fourth down, Page County fumbled again, this time Mondragon fell on the loose ball to suppress the drive.

“We caught a break,” yelled Mustang defensive coordinator Adam Amerine after the play. “That was a big drive cut short. Take away the first quarter and it’s a close game.”

Taking the ball from their twelve, Mason drove all the way into Page’s redzone, where Charlie Mann was hit from behind and, in a rare lapse on the part of the Mustang running game, coughed up the ball.

However, Page’s success was ephemeral, as Mondragon just ripped the ball right from a Panther running back and shortly thereafter, Charlie Mann went up the middle from three yards out for the score.

“Charlie is a different breed of fullback,” said Horn. “One on one we were just faster and more athletic than them tonight.”

In the fourth quarter, the Page County offense mustered two touchdowns against the Mustang defense, but it was too little too late. Senior running back Jason Cave scored both times, once from seven yards out and the other from 21 yards. Both times, however, the two-point conversion failed.

Folks put up Mason’s final points from three yards, ending the day with 11 carries for 114 yards, his second straight 100 yard game.

Horn’s postgame talk mirrored that of the Stuart’s game, saying that they did “8,000 things wrong.” He was complimentary of the way his team played, however, saying that they had the “true desire and mind set to win this game.” Nonetheless, he emphasized moving past this, as next week his squad takes on Region B powerhouse Stonewall Jackson, the reigning Shenandoah District champions.

Although they lost star player Richard Long to college football — he plays for Appalachian State and was on the sidelines for their historic upset of Michigan last week — Horn nonetheless made a point of saying how tough Stonewall is.

“Next week is the challenge,” said Horn. “No one on the first half of our schedule is as tough as Stonewall. We just have to challenge the kids all week and adjust to their consistent toughness.”

Mason will travel to Stonewall this Friday for a 7:30 p.m. matchup with their Region B foe. Horn closed his speech to his team by stating: “Two teams, same colors, going head to head. Nothing better than that.”