By Natalie Heavren
Despite starting 0-2 and finishing 4-7 to make the playoffs, George Mason High School’s postseason was one and done after a 32-21 loss to Brentsville District High School in the opening round concluded its season.
Senior running backs Connor Plaks and Michael Turner scored on the ground in the first quarter to give the Mustangs a 14-0 advantage and some optimism early on. The Tigers, however, would score the next three touchdowns going up 20-14, all on plays of less than 15 yards, a stark contrast to the long plays they scored on the week before.
Sophomore linebacker Josh Stillwagoner put Mason back on top when he found the endzone from the one to go ahead 21-20. But Mason’s defense surrendered two critical touchdowns to end its season. The first touchdown was another short run with Brentsville’s final touchdown being a 44-yard dash, similar to last week’s game full of big plays.
After the game Amerine made sure his team knew he and the rest of the coaching staff were proud of them.
“We were so proud of the effort and desire for the game and the season as a whole. Everyone contributed, we had key players missing all over the field this season and had numerous players step in and play hard and compete each week which really showed the team closeness and unselfishness,” he said.
Amerine added that there were a couple of things he wished had gone differently in the second half that may have extended the team’s season.
“A couple offensive possessions we turned it over on downs and then defensively we had Brentsville in long-yardage situations and we let them off the hook with a big pass play or missed tackle so really not being able to get off the field and force a punt in the second half,” he said.
The young program has just eight graduating seniors: including cornerstones in Plaks, wide receiver Enzo Paradiso and Turner.
Paradiso led the team with nine tackles and had 55 receiving yards on three catches. Plaks had 138 yards and a touchdown on 26 rushing attempts, a tackle and a forced fumble. Turner had six yards and a touchdown on three rushing attempts, two tackles and a fumble recovery.
Amerine spoke highly of his seniors, commenting on their leadership and how they’ve created a solid culture within the football program.
While Amerine pointed to Plaks rushing for over a 1,000 yards as a clear highlight for the season, he also felt sophomore quarterback Evans Rice making big strides in only his second season running the offense was another brightspot. Stillwagoner and sophomore two-way player George Papadopoulos led Mason in tackles this season as well, giving Amerine hope for what the future may hold for the program.
Amerine hopes that the fans remember a few things about this season’s team, “Their heart and effort to play 48 minutes each week…this team battled every down and has built a great foundation for the next few seasons to take this football program to the next level and be a consistent playoff participant for the next few seasons.”