Two weeks ago, the George Mason Mustangs lost to a historically bad team suddenly turned good. This past Friday, the Mustangs weren’t about to fall to a historically great club on a down year and let their post season chances slip right out of their fingers.
One week after losing 35-14 to Clarke County High School, a team that has not made the playoffs since 1995, the George Mason High School football team took their anger out on Manassas Park, drubbing the Cougars 17-0 to remain very much in the Region B playoff hunt.
The Cougars, who three years ago won the Single A state championship and returned to the finals two years ago, are now in the midst of a relatively off year, coming into the game 3-5 overall and 1-2 in the Bull Run District.
The Mustangs dominated possession, keeping the Manassas offense on the sidelines with long, arduous drives that allowed Mason to continuously milk time off the clock.
The difference in time of possession was well over 20 minutes in favor of Mason, as the Mustangs had three seven-minute drives and two six-minute drives, eating up the majority of the game in just five possessions.
Early in the first quarter, junior Antoneo Folks capped one of the seven-minute drives with a five-yard burst up the middle. With seven seconds left in the half, sophomore Yates Jordan converted the first Mustang field goal of the entire season, a 25-yard chip shot to give his squad a 10-0 lead going into the break.
Manassas called two timeouts to evidently ice the young Mason kicker, but Jordan was unfazed by the break.
“Ever since the [game-winning] Madison County extra point, Yates has been the kicker,” commented Mustang coach Tom Horn following the game. “He just doesn’t feel the pressure in that situation, and we’ve just had more confidence in him lately.”
Going into the game, Horn likened Manassas quarterback Mike Mehus to Chandler Rhodes, Clarke County’s star who torched the Mustang defense for five touchdowns a week earlier. However, Mehus had very little success against a revamped and shuffled Mason squad.
With starters Joel Chandler and Jose Larios out due to injury, Horn was forced to shift some players on the defensive end of the ball and it worked to perfection. Senior cornerback Mike Schwengel picked off Mehus twice in the game once the Cougars had to abandon their running game and were forced to air it out in an attempt to come back from the deficit.
Sophomore Ben Taylor, starting his first varsity game, anchored the safety position in replacement of Chandler, while Folks played the entire game on defense for the first time all year.
“Antoneo has been a situational guy in the past, playing a snap here and there on both offense and defense,” added Horn. “Now, he played every snap both ways, and it was definitely his best offensive and defensive game of the entire year.”
Schwengel capped off his day with a five-yard score in the third quarter to seal the victory for his team, 17-0. While he did throw one interception, the Mustangs generally avoided turning over the football, something that plagued them a week earlier when they had five fumbles.
“We played with a lot more character and resilience this week,” said Horn. “Their running game was entirely ineffective. [We] made them guess on offense.”
With the win, the playoff picture in Region B remains crowded with teams looking to fill the fourth and final seed. High-powered Gretna — averaging over 40 points a game this year — and Goochland have secured the top two spots. It appears as though Clarke will gain the third spot with a win over Madison this Friday all but ensuring it.
However, with four teams vying for the final spot, it is anyone’s game at this point. The seeds are determined by a power ranking system, much like the BCS system used in college football. Currently, Appomattox High School is in the lead for the last position, but a loss this Friday at Chatham and a Mason win brings the Mustangs closer to playing another week.
In order for them to even think about the playoffs, however, the Mustangs will have to get by Strasburg High. According to Horn, the two teams are “extremely similar,” with both squads relying on a power running game and strong defense to wear down the opponent.
It seems as though that this game will come down to which squad has the more depth, though. Both teams have lost their biggest playmaker, as Mason has lost Chandler because of a wrist injury, while Strasburg star Josh Kibler was kicked off the team due to policy violations.
The game against Strasburg will be the last of the regular season, with the senior players being honored before the 7:30 p.m. game at Moore Cadillac Stadium this Friday.