By Drew Costley
Trickery and traction on the ground helped George Mason High School’s varsity football team to a 24-0 victory over Luray High School last Friday. The Mustang offense ran for 257 yards and two touchdowns while the defense held the Bulldogs to 110 total yards.
“I feel like we came out real tough. We worked real hard,” said senior running back Connor Rhodes. “We tried to win quarters and not just the game.” Rhodes ran for 59 yards on 13 carries.
Rhodes, a slow power runner along with sophomore running back Hunter Sulc, were a change of pace from Mustangs’ speedy sophomore running back, D’Montae Noble, who shouldered the brunt of the rushing attack. Noble ran for 121 yards on 22 carries, with a 29-yard touchdown late in the first quarter.
Noble almost ran for the Mustangs’ first touchdown of the game halfway through the first quarter when he broke a 5-yard run from the Bulldogs’ 7-yard line, but he dropped the ball for the first of three fumbles. Senior tight end John Croke jumped on the fumble after it rolled into the end zone for the first score of game.
His other fumbles came on a run in the second quarter, which Rhodes recovered for a 5-yard loss, and a run in the fourth quarter which he recovered for a 7-yard loss.
Sulc, senior quarterback Grant Hagler, and junior wide receiver Alfonso Banks also contributed to the Mustangs’ rushing attack. Sulc ran for 26 yards on six carries, and Hagler ran for 15 yards on four carries. Hagler completed two of seven passes for 16 yards. Both completions were to Banks, who had 30 receiving yards.
Banks also ran for a 36-yard touchdown on a reverse play with 4:16 left in the game to put the finishing touches on the Mustangs’ victory.
But the reverse wasn’t the only successful Mason trick play that Banks was involved in. Early in the third quarter, Banks was on the receiving end of a pass from junior defensive back Sam Selby on a fourth and 15 fake punt to continue the drive.
“We had about five or six trick plays that we were about to use, but we pulled this one out of the hat … and it worked,” Selby said. “It was exactly the right play call.”
Junior place kicker Henderson Beam kicked a 25-yard field goal to finish off the drive with a score that put the Mustangs ahead 17-0. Beam was one for one on the night with that score and was three for three on the night on extra points.
Selby also had a key break-up on the last play of the third quarter when Bulldog junior quarterback Tyler Campbell tried to connect with junior running back Kealon Seal in the end zone.
Selby said a key to the victory was the Mustangs’ ability to stop the pass early in the game. The Bulldogs only completed one of six passes for 1 yard in the first half.
Even though the Bulldogs’ passing attack was more effective in the second half, the Mustangs secondary was able to contain it. Senior defensive back Nathaniel Ward made a key interception late in the third quarter to stop a Luray drive, which had crossed into Mustang territory.
Junior defensive lineman Davis Hagigh also made major contributions on defense with two and a half sacks, for 13- and 10-yard losses, and he teamed up with senior defensive lineman Jake Acosta and sophomore linebacker Marcellus Piper to sack Campbell for a 9-yard loss.
The Mustangs start their long stretch of district match-ups this week with a visit to Central High School on Friday to play the Falcons.