by Kate Karstens
The 42-28 comeback victory for the George Mason varsity football team in their first round of the Regional Tournament was an apt description of the Mustangs’ entire season.
After a rocky start against Luray and Sidwell Friends, Mason has steadily increased their record to 8-3 and their position as one of the top competitors for the 2A East Region title.
The Mustangs hosted the game, for the first time since 1998, against Amelia County, who has been eliminated as a result of Mason’s domination.
The home field advantage was a definite factor in Mason’s performance as the Mustangs were able to persevere following Amelia’s 14 point lead in the first half.
“Even when we were down, I don’t think the team ever doubted their abilities,” said Head Coach, Tony Green.
Amelia took advantage of Mason’s nerves in the first minutes of the game, scoring a quick 7 points.
The Mason offense, however, retaliated with 15-yard and 75-yard runs by Hunter Sulc and Noble, respectively, resulting in Mason’s presence on the scoreboard, 7-7.
Despite pressure on Amelia’s quarterback and receivers by Finn Roou and Matt Mineo, respectively, Amelia secured two more touchdowns, pushing the score to 21-7.
“We knew that we weren’t going to be winning all the time,” said Green. “Before the game we talked about controlling our emotions.”
Then, in the middle second quarter, running back D’Montae Noble startled Mason back into offensive play with a characteristic 90-yard kick return touchdown. Noble’s game-changing plays such as this return have given him name recognition throughout the district, earning him the title of All-District offensive player of the year.
Immediately following his astonishing run, Noble picked off the Amelia quarterback’s 40-yard pass to a receiver and ran to first and goal, where Dustin Green finished the drive for a score of 21-21 at halftime.
“We really came together and focused as a team,” said Mineo. “Once we got some momentum going, we didn’t ease up.”
In the second half, Mason’s defense, specifically that of first team All-District offensive lineman, Patrick Lin, and Eduardo Pacheco, forced the Amelia offense to resort to passing the ball, as their running options were quickly shut down. As a result, Amelia was unable to make any substantial offensive plays until the final minutes of the game, when their fate was sealed.
“Our front six did a really good job forcing them to pass,” said Coach Green.
On offense, Noble and Sulc made major contributions to Mason’s drives, pushing the extra yards for continuous first downs. However, the major playmaker in the third quarter was wide receiver, Dustin Green, a member of the All-District offensive second team.
“The touchdowns felt great because I could feel the crowd coming alive every time I scored,” said Green.
At the start of the third quarter, fighting off two Amelia defensive backs, Green leapt up and snagged a 20-yard pass from quarterback, Thomas Creed. Ethan Morse’s reliable extra point pushed the score to 28-21.
Amelia’s crumbling offense led to a crucial error by their punter, whose knee touched the ground while receiving the ball, placing Mason at first and goal in Amelia territory. Green skirted around Amelia’s defense for Mason’s second and final touchdown of the third quarter, 35-21.
In the fourth quarter, as a result of consistent pressure by Lin and Pacheco and coverage of the receivers by Mineo, Amelia was forced to turn possession over to Mason.
Noble took advantage of the field positioning at Amelia’s 40-yard line and ran the ball in on the first offensive play of the drive, giving Mason a 21 point lead.
Although Amelia’s quarterback ran in a touchdown in the final minutes of the game, Mason’s complete and utter dominance of 42-28 clinched their position in the Regional Quarter-Final against Clark County (10-1).
“Any time you’re in a playoff game, it could go either way,” said Coach Green. “We earned our way and so did they.”
Last time Mason faced the Eagles, they were swiftly defeated 42-14 at home. For their second matchup, the Mustangs will travel to Eagle territory on Friday, Nov. 20, for a matchup against district rival Clarke County High School.