It was sloppy. It was a shootout. It came down to the wire. Quite frankly, however, a win is a win for the George Mason High varsity football team, as the end certainly outweighed the means in the Mustangs' 44-43 nail-biting victory over Madison County High School Friday night.
Opening Bull Run District play down in the heart of Virginia, the Mustangs found themselves facing a crucial and game-deciding fourth down-and-one with 57 seconds left in the fourth quarter.
Sticking to their deceptive double-wing offense, Mason Coach Horn called a power-run up the middle, as junior running back Joel Chandler took the handoff, punched up the middle, and eventually broke several Mountaineer tacklers for a 42-yard run down to the Madison one yard line.
“Absolutely we had to stick to the offense we’re best at,” said Mason coach Tom Horn. “We hadn’t really been stopped up until that point, and given the field position, we just wanted to get the first down.”
On the ensuing play, Mason's Charlie Mann went up the gut for the score, and the ensuing extra point by sophomore Yates Jordan put Mason up for good on the night.
But for a brief second late in the fourth period, it seemed as if Madison was on the verge of pulling off a dramatic upset, had they only stopped that fourth down conversion attempt. The Mountaineers had just generated a five-play, 64-yard drive, capped off by a Demetrick Johnson 38-yard score and had a monopoly on the momentum until Chandler's breakthrough.
Starting off the game, Madison slowly marched its way down to the Mason one yard line on their opening drive. However, a tip by Mustang junior Jose Larios and the subsequent interception by Chandler returned the ball to the Mustangs and ended the scoring threat.
On the following possession, Mason marched 99 yards and scored to put up the first points of the game. Quarterback Mike Schwengel found junior Lonnie Millard for a 33-yard strike, which was later coupled with a 34-yard burst by Mann for the score.
Madison first got on the board after a botched reverse was fumbled by the Mustangs and recovered in the end zone by the Mountaineers. As the minutes continued to pass, a strong, balanced offensive attack led the Mountaineers to a 21-13 halftime lead.
Neither team could extend its lead beyond one score the entire night, as they traded touchdowns for much of the second half until Mason’s fourth-and-one conversion left the Mountaineers out of time and out of options for victory.
The swing of momentum in the second half delighted Horn, who said that he thought that his squad “played great for 70 percent of the snaps.” However, several big plays by Madison kept the game close, as the Mustangs just could not capitalize and stop the Mountaineer offense on third and fourth downs.
Mason’s defensive troubles surfaced from their opening game against J.E.B. Stuart. This season, the Musgants have given up fewer than 19 points just once. They also have allowed a combined 84 points in their past two games.
“We played with bad defense but fortunately we had a particularly good offensive day,” Horn said following the contest. “Our effort was great, but that’s not a correctable thing. We’re just not fulfilling our responsibility on the big plays.”
This Friday’s game, Mason’s homecoming, will be played against Rappahannock County High at 7:30 p.m. Rappahannock recently had their home game with Clarke County postponed from last week to this Monday due to a staph infection at the school.
Rappahannock fell to the Eagles, 26-14, but will come to George Mason hoping to get its first win in the district against the now 4-2 Mustangs.