The comeback is official.A year after suffering through a 1-9 calamity, the George Mason High School varsity football team ensured itself a winning 2009 season by scoring a 21-14 road victory over the Strasburg Rams last Friday night.
The win put Mason’s record at 6-3. The team’s final contest is this Friday at home, against Manassas Park.
Against Strasburg, Mason showed both a steady offense and stubborn defense.
The offense scored on three sustained drives – 12 plays/67 yards in the first quarter; eight plays/70 yards in the second quarter and 10 plays/52 yards in the fourth quarter.
With the offensive line delivering a gutsy effort in the trenches, Mason was able to amass more than 200 yards rushing, propelled by senior running backs Chris Saraus (two touchdowns), Ben Taylor (one touchdown) and Matt Palmieri, who had two big runs and a crucial catch on a 4th and 8 to sustain Mason’s first scoring drive.
Mason sprinkled enough passes into its game plan to keep the Rams defense from keying on the run.
Mixing rollouts and quick dropbacks, junior quarterback Tyler Duncan completed four of seven passes for 52 yards, the longest a 27-yarder to senior tight end George Kalantzis that sparked the Mustangs’ second touchdown drive.
Mason enjoyed a 14-0 lead before Strasburg managed to get on the board midway through the second quarter.
Although Strasburg’s defense had the upper hand during the third quarter and early in the fourth, even then Mason managed first downs on two of three possessions, chewing up the clock and cutting into the Rams’ time on offense.
For the night, the Mustang offense got 15 first downs and committed no turnovers. Senior Misael Benitez delivered an important 39-yard punt that turned field position to Mason’s favor in the fourth quarter and freshman Henry Darmstadter made all three of his point-after-touchdown kicks.
In the second half, the Mustang defense came up big time and again, showing gritty determination behind the leadership of senior linebackers Manuel Veiga Diaz, P.J. Anderson, Palmieri and Benitez, who were aided by a strong supporting cast on the defensive line and in the secondary.
Mason’s defenders forced the Rams to punt on three consecutive possessions in the third quarter.
With seven minutes left in the game and Strasburg on the move, the Mustangs held the Rams on 3rd and short and 4th and short, giving Mason the ball on downs at their own 48.
From there, the Mustangs launched their final scoring drive.
Staying on the ground to eat up time, the backfield trio of Palmieri, Saraus and Taylor combined for 10 runs, the key being a 12-yard scamper by Taylor on a 3rd and 10 that kept Mason rolling. Saraus crossed the goal line from five yards out with 2:22 remaining, and Darmstadter’s PAT gave Mason a 21-7 lead.
The excitement was not over, as Strasburg, throwing on every down in a desperate effort to get back in the game, scored on a long pass with one minute left.
But on the ensuing kickoff, the Rams botched the onsides kick attempt. Mason took the ball and kneeled twice to run out the clock.
This Friday, Nov. 13, is Mason’s Senior Night, honoring the fall-sport athletes of the Class of 2010 and their parents.
The nine seniors on the football team are Anderson, Benitez, Sam Dittmar, Yates Jordan, Kalantzis, Palmieri, Saraus, Taylor, and Veiga Diaz.