Trailing by three points with time waning in the fourth quarter, the George Mason High School Mustangs summoned their wits and muscle to march 65 yards for a touchdown that lifted them to a 16-12 victory over the visiting Stonewall Jackson Generals last Friday night.
Starting on their own 35 yard line with just over 8 minutes to play, Mason put together a 13-play drive featuring gritty runs by senior Patrick Rhodes and juniors Nico De Ocampo, Stephen Lubnow and Bryce Cooper, and one key passing play, a rollout toss by senior quarterback Tyler Duncan to Lubnow that gained 19 yards.
Once the Mustangs got inside the 25, the Generals defense dug in; they had Mason facing fourth down and five at the 24. Lubnow kept his team alive with a seven-yard rush for a first down, and two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties on Stonewall Jackson moved the ball inside the five. Two more Lubnow runs left Mason a half-yard from the end zone. Cooper got the call to punch it in, which he did behind a big push by the Mason offensive line. Sophomore Henry Darmstadter kicked the extra point, and Mason led by four with 2:33 left to play.
That could have been enough time for a comeback by Stonewall Jackson, which earlier had broken two big runs for touchdowns. But the Mustangs’ defense rose to the occasion. Duncan, playing cornerback, broke up a pass on third down, then Lubnow crashed in from safety to snuff a Generals sweep, one of his team-leading 16 tackles in the game. That gave Mason the ball with less than a minute. They killed the clock with two kneeldowns as the hometown crowd of 1,000 strong celebrated the Mustangs’ first victory of the season.
Overall for the game, Mason amassed 279 yards and 16 first downs on the ground, with five runners sharing the load. Rhodes led the way with 18 carries for 95 yards; Lubnow had 11 carries for 65 yards, including a 10-yard touchdown that gave Mason a 7-0 lead in the first quarter; Cooper gained 56 yards on 11 carries, including the winning touchdown; De Ocampo got 35 yards on nine carries, and junior Jonathan Freeman had four carries for 28 yards.
Clearing a path to enable the ball carriers to succeed were Mason’s offensive linemen, a crew that includes three seniors (guard Mike Larcamp, tight end Brandon Alexander, and tackle Walter Porzel), three juniors (tackles Vance Romero and Trevor Simpson, and tight end Spencer Trevisan), and two sophomores (center James Hickey and guard Jake Hirsch).
Mason led 9-0 after three quarters, thanks to a stout defense, Lubnow’s early touchdown, a Darmstadter PAT, and two points on a safety when a botched snap forced the Generals’ punter to down the ball in his own end zone.
But Stonewall Jackson dramatically turned the tables early in the fourth quarter. Jared Getz ran 19 yards for a touchdown, Mason took the kickoff and fumbled on its second play, and the Generals’ Anthony Preacher broke free for a 39-yard touchdown run. After both scores the Generals failed on two-point conversions, but still, they led 12-9 when Mason launched its decisive final drive.
Injuries continue to be a factor for Mason. For the Stonewall Jackson game the team was glad to welcome back Lubnow and Alexander, who were hurt in the Sept. 3 season-opening loss to Stuart and did not play when the Mustangs fell by a touchdown to Luray Sept. 10. But an injury in the Luray game kept senior running back/linebacker Sebastian Askin from playing against Stonewall Jackson. And prior to the game, the team heard the very disappointing news that highly valued senior tight end/defensive end Mitch Hirsch is likely lost for the season with a broken bone in his foot.
This Friday the Mustangs take their 1-2 record on the road to Colonial Beach High School, on the Potomac River due east of Fredericksburg. Mason returns to Falls Church on Oct. 1 for a homecoming contest with Central-Woodstock. Kickoff for both games is at 7:30pm.