The George Mason High School varsity football team braved cold weather and overcame turnovers last Friday night to defeat Bull-Run District rival Manassas Park 14-7, ending the Cougars’ 20-game winning streak in the district.
The Mustangs were led by senior running back Eddie Huber, who ran the ball 19 times for 61 yards, including Mason’s lone offensive touchdown on the opening drive of the second half. Huber later returned a fumble for a touchdown to put the game out of reach.
The win marks the first time in four years that any of the current Mustang seniors have defeated Manassas Park. Graduating players Huber, Judah Chandler, Ed Hickey, Ryan Larcamp, Kevin Montgomery, Roger O’Brien, Cody Reynolds, and Ben Zorn saw Mason tie the Cougars when they were in eighth grade, but never tasted victory until now.
“This is the icing on the cake for them,” Mason Head Coach Tom Horn said following the game. “Hopefully, however, this isn’t the top layer of icing. We still have another game to go.”
The sub-freezing weather played a factor in the outcome of the game. Turnovers plagued the Cougars throughout the night, as they coughed up the ball four times on fumbles, and threw two interceptions. Two of the turnovers led to the Mustang’s only touchdowns.
“The cold definitely hardened up the ball,” Horn mentioned about the weather. “They put the ball on the ground and we made the best of it.”
With the game scoreless at halftime, Manassas Park received the ball on the kickoff to open the second half, but the Cougars’ T.J. Demby promptly fumbled the ball away. Huber’s one-yard dive into the end zone capped the drive, putting the Mustangs on the board first.
In the fourth quarter, another Manassas fumble snuffed out what had been an encouraging drive by the Cougars. With the ball at the Mason 33 yard line, the Cougars’ star senior running back, Anthony Williams, fumbled a direct snap, allowing Huber to scoop up the loose ball and rumble 57 yards for the score and a 14-0 lead for Mason.
A valiant comeback effort by the Cougars late in the fourth quarter fell just short. One drive after Mason sophomore Joel Chandler picked off a Cougar pass, Manassas senior Michael Mehus found senior Kramer Cadle in stride for a 21-yard touchdown pass, putting them back in the game.
After a failed onside kick, Manassas would get one final shot for the tying score. However, Mehus was unable to get anything going this time, as four incomplete passes, the last of which broken up by junior Mike Schwengel, sealed the victory for George Mason.
Just two weeks after torching Clarke County for 201 rushing yards and two touchdowns, Anthony Williams continued his impressive season, rushing 18 times for 126 yards. However, the turnover bug bit Williams, as he fumbled four times on the night.
Impressive performances for the Mustangs came from sophomores Joel Chandler and John Mann, who rushed for 29 and 14 yards, respectively. Mann also recovered the fumble to open up the second half which led to Huber’s score. On defense, senior Kevin Montgomery had an interception in the first half, and almost returned one for a score in the fourth quarter, but the ball slipped out of his hands. Ben Zorn and Cody Reynolds also capitalized on the Cougars’ mistakes, each recovering fumbles.
While the game marked the final home contest for the team’s seniors, Horn was especially complimentary of the way his younger players rose to the challenge to defeat Manassas Park.
“Many of these guys have not had the chance to experience the losses in the past year and I think that helped for the younger guys,” said Horn following the win. “[Sophomores] Andrew Lieber, and John and Charlie Mann responded well to the challenge, and I think they really stepped their game up tonight.”
With the win, George Mason moved into sole possession of first place in the Bull Run District, improving their record to 5-4 on the year, including 4-0 in the district. Manassas Park falls to 4-5, and 3-1 in the district.
If the Mustangs were to lose their final regular season game this Friday at Strasburg High, Horn said, then Manassas could hold an edge in the power points poll, meaning the Cougars could possibly reach the postseason over the Mustangs, although Mason holds the tiebreaker.
Strasburg is 3-5 this season. Manassas Park will play Rappahannock County, who is 1-8.