The game went back and forth throughout the night, with lead changes taking place in each of the four quarters.
Colonial Beach took an early lead, driving for a touchdown on the game’s first possession. They were denied on the following two-point conversion however, and settled for a 6-0 lead.
The Mustangs answered on their first possession, getting on the board via senior Ben Taylor’s 55-yard touchdown run down the right side.
Freshman kicker Henry Darmstadter hit the extra point to give Mason a 7-6 lead with under three minutes to go in the first quarter.
Early in the second, the Mustangs held Colonial Beach on a critical fourth down play, but turned the ball back over on the following play on a fumble.
The Drifters capitalized on the turnover by driving for a go-ahead touchdown; they converted the two-point attempt this time, and went up 14-7 with 10 minutes to go in the first half.
The Mason offense struggled for the remainder of the second quarter, but the defense was right there to pick up the slack.
Taylor, who made Mason’s only touchdown, picked off two passes in the closing minutes of the second quarter, returning the second one back for a touchdown.
“Taylor had a great game, probably the best I’ve ever seen him play,” said senior linebacker PJ Anderson. “He really picked it up on defense, and on offense he hit the hole hard and ran with great vision.”
Taylor’s pick-six tied the game at 14 with 49 seconds remaining in the half, but the scoring was not done yet.
After a quick three-and-out for Colonial Beach, senior Matt Palmieri blocked the Drifter’s punt attempt.
Mason recovered the ball near their opponents’ goal line, but settled for a field goal attempt after just one play due to a lack of time. Darmstadter drilled the chip shot field goal to put his team ahead 17-14 going into halftime.
Once again, the Drifters were the first to score in the third quarter. After forcing Mason to turn the ball over on downs on their first possession, they re-claimed the lead with a touchdown and two-point conversion that gave them a 22-17 lead.
The Mustang offense immediately answered the call, scoring on the ensuing possession; just as they had done in the first and second quarters.
Three of Mason’s senior backs, Palmieri, Taylor and Chris Sauraus, led a quick 50 yard drive that was capped off by a 10-yard Palimieri touchdown burst. With the score, Mason took a 24-22 lead midway through the third quarter.
“We’ve played several close games now, so it doesn’t surprise me that they weren’t fazed by being down,” said Mason head coach Tom Horn.
“It showed a lot of perseverance and resilience, but more importantly the team just played hard. You’re able to stem lead changes when you play really hard.”
The up-and-down battle continued as the third quarter played on. Colonial Beach put a methodical drive together following the Palmieri touchdown. After eating up the last six minutes of the third, they scored on the opening play of the fourth quarter to swing the game back in their favor. The two-point conversion failed, leaving Colonial Beach with a four point lead.
The two sides swapped punts on the next two possessions before the Mustangs embarked on their game winning drive.
Starting on their own 25-yard line with just under eight minutes to go in the contest, the Mason offense strung together a five minute touchdown drive to take the lead for good.
Junior quarterback Tyler Duncan orchestrated the drive flawlessly, going 3-3 with 48 yards in the air, including a 25-yard completion to senior running back Yates Jordan on a crucial third down, and a seven-yard pass to sophomore tight end Stephen Lubnow, to convert on fourth and two.
“[Duncan] is playing like he needs to prove something,” said Horn. “He’s got the mindset that he needs to make plays instead of just trying not to make mistakes.”
Duncan’s passing and more steady runs by the four senior backs put the Mustangs inside the Drifter’s 10 yard line with less than four minutes to go.
After several holds by the Colonial Beach defense, including a stop inside the one yard line, Taylor plunged into the end zone for his third score of the game.
The Taylor touchdown, scored with 2:19 to go in the contest gave Mason the lead for good this time. It resulted in the seventh and final lead change of the night as the Mustangs held on to win, 31-28.
The undefeated Mustang football team will be back on the road this Friday when they take on Central High School in Woodstock, Va.
“Central is huge,” said Coach Tom Horn.
“They are coming down to group A from group AA, so they play a physical brand of football. We will have to be great against the power running game.”