Before the opening kickoff of George Mason High School’s football meeting with host Stonewall Jackson High last Friday, Mason lineman Brady Hatfield bellowed out a soliloquy for his teammates in the huddle, whose spirits were not dampened by the constant downpour and frigid winds.
“We are not the same team we were last year,” Hatfield screamed at his teammates. “Show them what we have. Let them know we’re not the same team!”
The Mustangs made it known throughout the night that they were not the same team who got drubbed by the Generals last year, 32-0, but unfortunately for Mason, they were unable to escape with a victory, as a late touchdown with less than two minutes remaining spelled defeat for Mason, 26-22.
Mason took the lead 22-20 following an eight-yard power burst up the middle by senior fullback Sean Mondragon with six minutes left in the fourth quarter. On the point after, coach Tom Horn’s creative mind was showcased, as senior quarterback Mike Schwengel pulled the ball from underneath the sweeping leg of sophomore Manuel Viega-Diaz, rolled to the left, and found junior Joel Chandler for the two-point conversion.
On the ensuing position, Stonewall found themselves stuck in a fourth and seven deep in their own territory, watching their shot at victory slipping away, as the dominating Mustang defense had held the General offense in check throughout the night.
However, as sophomore Dylan Dawson was flushed out of the pocket by a flurry of Mason pass-rushers, he launched the ball just out of reach of Mustang corner Antoneo Folks and into the arms of senior Hunter Stout. Stout then promptly scurried 61 yards down the left sideline before being brought down at the five by a shoe-string tackle by Schwengel.
Nonetheless, Stout capped off his outstanding day with the game-winning touchdown. Matching the Mustangs rushing yards in the first half with 108 apiece, Stout finished with 25 carries for 175 yards and two scores. A listed quarterback, Stout’s solid 6-foot-2 frame caused problems for the Mason defense throughout the night.
However, with their two-point conversion stuffed, Mason still had a one minute window to mount a comeback and regain the lead. Mirroring Stonewall’s play early in the game, both teams spent the remaining seconds of the match playing as though their hands were marinated in butter, as three subsequent plays produced three fumbles.
Although Stonewall fumbled five snaps on the night, Mason was only able to recover one of those, as Hatfield sprung past the General offensive line late in the first half.
“It all comes down to chances and we didn’t take advantage,” said Horn after the game. “Had we recovered some of those fumbles, I probably would have gone over, congratulated the boys on a hard fought win, and we would be standing here talking about our victory.”
Had the Mustangs managed to pounce on one of the remaining four loose balls, the momentum would have been almost certainly shifted in their direction. Following Hatfield’s recovery in the first half, Schwengel tore through the line on an option, and just before getting hit, pitched the ball to Chandler for the 29 yard score, tying the game at 14.
Just before the game started, Coach Horn barked at his squad to “unleash” all their fury on the Generals. “Dominate and destroy this game,” he yelled. “Make eleven red shirts pick themselves up on the first play.”
While his words certainly rang loud and clear to his players, they were unable to follow through on the opening drive, going three and out. A 31-yard punt return by General running back Malaki Scruggs set up a 10-yard burst up the gut by Aaron Carter with 7:37 left in the first quarter, putting his team on the board first.
Stout racked up his first score of the night on a 40-yard surge early in the second quarter, as the constant downpour caused several Mustangs to let him literally slip out of their grasps.
The offensive fire power demonstrated in the Mustangs' opening two matches, in which their running and passing game detonated for a combined 95 points, certainly burst out of the stables on their second drive, as a Schwengel 50-yard strike to a streaking Chandler over the middle provided the answer.
After combining for 233 rushing yards in his first two contests, Stonewall managed to stifle Folks’ potent speed, as the junior went into halftime with only three carries for one yard. Likewise, Chandler’s ground game was put on hold, as he entered the break with a mere four carries for 16 yards.
Following Mondragon’s score and the subsequent two-point conversion, a long, monotonous drive by Stonewall’s power-I running game set up Stout’s game winning score with 8:58 left in the contest.
“It was a great football game,” commented Horn after the game. “We tend to have those out here at Stonewall.”
With a bye coming up this week, the Mustangs have their eyes set on a September 28 date at home versus Luray High. Despite numerous glaring flaws, Horn emphasized the importance of not rushing into things.
“We’ve given up a lot of points these first three games,” he noted. “We need to step back, take a look at ourselves, and analyze what we’re not doing well.
“Basically, our play has remained consistent over the course of the season. That’s not a positive thing.”