It was about as ugly a first half of football as there's ever been, yet the George Mason High School JV football team came from behind to beat visiting Manassas Park by a score of 13-6 in the final game of the season.
The game started on a sour note for Mason, as Manassas Park received the opening kickoff and promptly marched the ball 63 yards for a score. The Cougar backfield successfully used their speed by repeatedly bouncing to the outside, churning up the sidelines for first down after first down. Manassas Park’s authoritative touchdown was somewhat diminished because the two point conversion was denied, leaving the score at 6-0.
While the Cougars wouldn't score again, the Mustang defense looked confused and nearly incapable of shutting down the running lanes. To make matter worse, the Mustang offense seemed out of synch as well, coughing up four turnovers in the first half.
But in dramatic fashion, on the last play of the half Mason’s Quinn Casteel hooked up with Jeremy Stewart on a 29-yard touchdown strike. Manuel Vega Diaz launched his point after touchdown kick through the uprights for a 7-6 lead that Mason would not relinquish.
Mason met with more defensive success in the second half, as the Mustangs' Vega Diaz spent a lot of time in the Cougars' backfield, allowing Noel Obusan to recover a fumble and make an interception.
On offense, Jamal McLean contributed in workmanlike fashion with a fourth quarter plunge, making the final score 13-6.
Part of the reason Mason seemed so disorganized is that this was the fourth game in a row that the roster was significantly impacted by loss of players who have either been moved up to varsity, injured or otherwise unable to perform.
Said Mason JV Coach Andre Jackson, “We were really young in some key spots especially at cornerback and defense end as well as at receiver. We were out of position a lot in the first half and really killed ourselves. But I’m proud of the way the team stuck with it. I give our players a lot of credit for learning and reacting at speed during game conditions.”
Looking back at the season just completed, Coach Jackson reminisced by saying that a “dozen or so” players will be moving up to varsity next season.
“Collectively they have a good attitude and are kind of fearless. We will miss them. Our loss will be [Mason varsity head coach Tom] Horn’s gain,” Jackson said.
In response, Horn lauded the work of both JV coaches LaBryan Thomas and Jackson. In particular, Horn noted that this was the first year that the Bull Run District designed the sub-varsity games primarily as a focus on 10th graders — a departure from the past when games were designed as true freshman games.
“This year more than ever we [the varsity] were confident what we were getting,” said Coach Horn. “At a certain point in the season we needed to pull up help, especially on defense and special teams. We knew what we were getting because our 10th graders were ready.”
Coach Horn expounded on the job well done by the JV coaching staff by saying, “They did a great job of juggling. As the season wore on, with injuries and players being pulled up to varsity, Coach T[homas] and Coach Jackson did a great job of providing the younger players with football background while teaching them to perform at multiple positions,” he said.