The George Mason High School freshman football team hosted Rappahannock High School last Wednesday and got back on the winning track with a 35 – 6 victory, upping its record to 3-1. Just a week ago, Mason was beaten badly at Madison County and there were questions about how the team would respond.
Rappahannock didn’t make it easy — they had size, athletic ability and a potent passing attack. Compounding the situation for the Mustangs were several players out with minor injuries, which forced the coaching staff to reshuffle the lineup. Consequently freshman Misael Benitez started in the fullback spot and responded immediately by scoring two first-quarter touchdowns for Mason. The first was a 65-yard run and the second from two yards out. Manuel Veiga-Diaz converted both point-after-touchdown kicks, putting Mason up 14-0.
“We got the lead in the beginning and then lost focus in the second quarter,” said Mason Assistant Coach Andre Jackson. “Plus we did too much arm tackling.”
Mason’s lack of focus resulted in a Rappahannock drive highlighted by a 48-yard passing play. That strike would have gone for a touchdown if not for freshman Nick Smirniotopoulos, who brought down the ball carrier at the two yard line. Two plays later Rappahannock punched the ball into the end zone, tightening the game at 14-6. Mason denied the two-point attempt.
The Mustangs got the game back on track through the air. Late in the second quarter, freshman quarterback Ben Stewart hooked up with Benitez for an 18-yard gain and then found freshman Ben Taylor in the end zone for a 10-yard touchdown completion. That score gave Mason a 21-6 lead with a little over a minute left in the first half.
After a fumble recovery by freshman Matt Palmieri, a Mustang turnover and a successive interception by freshman Sebastian Zorn, Mason freshman Ben Taylor took a handoff 71 yards, weaving every conceivable way through the Rappahannock defense, for a touchdown. The conversion of the point-after-touchdown kick gave Mason a 28 – 6 lead as they headed into the locker room.
In the second half, Benitez added a fourth quarter 73 yard touchdown run, with Smirniotopoulos adding a successful point after kick, making the final score 35-6.
Positively adding to Mason’s game totals were eighth grade defenders Tyler Back and Sebastian Askin, who each added a fumble recovery to the Mustang cause.
The Mason freshman team’s next game is the last game of the season on the road next Wednesday against Bull Run District rival Manassas Park. Game time is at 6:30 p.m.