Six straight losses still leaves George Mason High School’s football team with a bad taste in its mouth despite an admirable effort in a 35-16 defeat to Clarke County High School last Friday.
The term “moral victory” is used sparingly and, at times, mockingly in the world of sports, but Mason’s (2-6) showing against the Eagles deserves an exceptionally positive use of the phrase.
Shouldering the mental weight of a lengthy losing streak while facing an imposing Clarke County team (on a cold and rainy night, no less) provided ample reason for the Mustangs to quit on their season two games early. And when the Eagles ripped off a 70-yard run on their opening play from scrimmage, it seemed Mason had punched their time card on 2018. But the Mustangs landed enough clean shots on Clarke County to keep them honest and put a little butter on the broccoli that was a sixth consecutive loss.
“This is the best game we’ve played all year,” head coach Adam Amerine said. “We moved the ball well against a good defensive team and we played downhill, which we hadn’t the past few weeks.”
With seven seconds to go in the first quarter, the Eagles backfield slashed its way to another touchdown to go up 14-0. Mason was desperate for a big play when sophomore defensive lineman Paul Thompson answered the call during the Clark County’s next offensive possession.
Thompson sniffed out a wide receiver reverse and forced a fumble to give the Mustangs the ball at midfield. What followed was a methodical, nine-play march powered by the legs of senior running backs Jack Felgar and Connor Murray. Junior wingback Michael Turner capped off the series by scoring a touchdown and a two point conversion to bring Mason within six.
Clarke County responded with a touchdown on the following drive to go back up by 14, but the Mustangs countered again. An Eagles penalty for 12 men on the field revived a stalled Mason drive. Freshman quarterback Evans Rice didn’t waste the gift and hit Turner for 35 yard corner route soon after to put Mason seven yards outside of the endzone. Felgar bullied his way in and the Mustangs converted another two point try to cut the lead to 21-16 at halftime.
A scoreless third quarter set up a dramatic fourth that ended with a whimper. Clarke County regained control of the game on a 69 yard touchdown drive to go up 28-16 with just under nine minutes to play. On Mason’s ensuing possession Rice faked a handoff to roll left, but rolled directly into heavy pressure from the Eagles’ front four. The freshman fumbled the ball, which Clarke County recovered and returned for a touchdown to lock up the victory.
A 19-point loss is no badge of honor. However, for a team looking for something positive — such as scoring more points in one game than its previous four combined — the result wasn’t as putridly received as most losses would be.
“These schools usually have more guys, bigger guys, so it’s been a struggle for us all year,” senior defensive lineman Matthew Teague said. “But we played our hearts out tonight and I don’t think we could’ve given a much better effort than that.”
Mason will look to end the year with an actual victory (not a moral one) when they match up with Madison County High School on the road tomorrow night.