Coming off their first loss of the year to Stonewall Jackson and a subsequent bye week, Mason was given time to break down the flaws, most notably in their defense, and improve versus a depleted Luray squad, entering the game with just one win. The Mustangs took advantage of the opportunity, crossing the goal line early and often Friday, Sept. 28, en route to a 28-0 shellacking of Luray High School.
“Luray was playing without someone who has been a huge weapon for them so far,” said Mason Head Coach Tom Horn. “Obviously it makes them weaker, but it showed a great football instinct on our part to adjust to different play-calling.”
On the Bulldogs’ first drive of the game, however, it seemed as though the Mustangs' defense would fall victim to more of the same lapses that plagued them against Stonewall. But as Luray marched down to the Mason 15, the Mustangs' defense buckled down and got a key stop on fourth and two to force the turnover on downs.
Mason's defense redoubled its efforts from there. The three first downs Luray picked up on that first drive would be the only three the team got in the first half, as they managed to advance the markers just once more the entire night.
Following the fourth-down stop on Luray's first series, Mason marched nearly the length of the field for a scoring drive capped off by a bootleg by senior quarterback Mike Schwengel from 11 yards out. Sophomore Manuel Viega-Diaz converted the PAT — he was 4-for-4 on the night — to put the Mustangs on the board first.
The Mustangs defense was best showcased on the next drive, as Luray quarterback Brannon Deibert was sacked for a 12-yard loss by Mason senior Barratt Kennett. Kennett burst past the Bulldog line, grabbed a hold of Deibert’s jersey and promptly threw him to the ground.
Simply enjoying himself throughout the night, Kennett came off the field to comment on how “everyone was just out there having fun playing some good football under the lights.” However, the linebacker later went on to add that “when it came time to make a stop, our defense really got down to business.”
It must have been fun for the Mustangs indeed. On fourth and 26, Mason junior Jose Larios blocked a punt to give his team the ball deep in Luray territory. On the subsequent play, classmate Charlie Mann looked more like a pinball than a running back, bouncing, darting and spinning off tacklers en route to a 25-yard score.
Mann, the Mustangs’ leading ball-carrier to this point in the season, finished the game with 16 carries for 95 yards. After another Luray punt, Mann converted a fourth-and-one to set up Schwengel’s second score of the night, a 10-yard run.
Schwengel posted solid numbers all-around, racking up 110 total yards and three touchdowns. His third score came on a 10-yard pass to junior Joel Chandler early in the third quarter for the final score of the game.
The tough Luray squad did not go down without a fight, converting two fourth-downs following Chandler’s touchdown reception to make it to the Mustang 18. Nonetheless, the Mason defense played spoiler, when junior Taylor Harvey pounced on a fumble to give Mason the ball late in the fourth quarter with the opportunity to run out the clock.
“To this point, our defense has been as good as they were last year,” said Horn. “Now, they’re starting to grow. Austin, Brady, John Mann and Sean all played well tonight. They controlled the inside running game all night.” Mondragon, coming into the game with a separated shoulder and a dislocated finger, was a force at the linebacker position. Meanwhile Hatfield, just a couple weeks off a knee injury, dominated in the trenches.
Following the game, Horn made it clear to his players to enjoy this win but to not focus on it too much. When asking his players what their next step is they responded in unison: “Goochland.”
Traveling to the defending state-champion Goochland High next week will probably be the biggest test facing the Mustangs all year. Led by the offensive player of the year, D.J. Coles — a Virginia Tech recruit — the Bulldogs have been a force in the James River District thus far.
Against Goochland, Mason will rely on its balanced running attack. In their game against Luray, while no one topped 100 yards on the ground, five players had over 50 yards rushing. The team compiled 42 carries for 349 yards, resulting in 8.3 yards per carry overall.
“Go to bed tonight thinking of Goochland,” Coach Horn said, wrapping up his post-game speech. “Visualize their state championship ring as you go to work this week.”