The George Mason High School freshman football team hosted Bull Run District rival Clarke County High School last week and lost 38-14. In the process the Mustangs lost team leader Misael Benitez for the rest of the season.
Perhaps it was the cooler weather sweeping into the region, but the Mason players appeared to be playing on their heels for most of the game, and the defensive unit had continual trouble locating the ball and making a stop when they had to.
“We were making too many excuses on the sidelines instead of just going out and playing the game,” Mason Assistant Coach Andre Jackson said after the game. “We were not able to recover from our mistakes either.”
For a brief moment in the early going, things seemed good for the Mustangs. Mason received the opening kickoff and moved the ball 55 yards to eventually stand inside the Clarke five yard line. A Mason fumble put an end to that drive, but after regaining possession the Eagles could not prevent Mason’s Benitez from taking the ball 30 yards into the end zone giving Mason a 6-0 lead.
But from that point on the Mustangs played most of the game in a defensive posture. Clarke scored three touchdowns in the first half, converting all three two-point conversions. For the Mustangs, the turnovers mounded and the first half ended with Clarke leading 24-6.
A second-half adjustment never came for Mason. Early in the third quarter Benitez bulled his way for a first down, dragging three defenders with him. The feat came at a price though. In the process of being tackled, Benitez simultaneously experienced a severe high ankle injury and fumbled the ball. Clarke seized the momentum and immediately scored on a 25-yard touchdown pass to seal the victory. It was an unfortunate turn of events for Benitez who moved into a starting running back position just two games ago.
Mason a second touchdown when freshman Quinn Casteel connected with speedy freshman Nick Smirniotopoulos on a nifty 65-yard touchdown completion in the fourth quarter.
Mason had one game remaining against Manassas Park, played Wednesday, Nov. 1. Results were not available at press time.
Despite the setback against Clarke, Mason Freshman Head Coach LaBryan Thomas is pleased with the progress this year.
“Yes we have had some ups and downs, but I am very satisfied with this team — they are a good group of players,” he said. “What we can take from this season is that we know how to play this game — we just need to play a complete game, all four quarters with no let down.”