Senior Ben Taylor rushed for 100 yards and three touchdowns, including a 60-yard dash in the first quarter that started the Mason scorefest.
Senior George Kalantzis threw a 35-yard pass to Taylor on a trick-play reverse, then on the next play ran the ball into the end zone. Later Kalantzis got a second touchdown, on a pass from junior quarterback Tyler Duncan.
Senior Matt Palmieri ran for a touchdown and picked off a Cougar pass to set up another Mason score. Senior Yates Jordan also snagged an interception, and later scored a running touchdown.
Hard-hitting senior linebackers Manuel Veiga Diaz and P.J. Anderson each caused Cougar fumbles that led to Mason scores, and sustained defensive pressure and their Class of ’10 mates Misael Benitez and Sam Dittmar contributed to the interceptions by Jordan and Palmieri, and to a third pick by junior Mitch Hirsch.
Senior back Chris Saraus, the two-touchdown hero of Mason’s Nov. 6 victory over Strasburg, closed his Mason career with another solid contribution to the Mason running attack.
The victory avenged a bitter double-overtime loss to Manassas Park in Mason’s 2008 Homecoming game and it closed the book on the Mustangs’ 2009 season at 7-3.
This year’s Mason team will be remembered as undersized and overachieving. With no starter taller than six-foot and a mere handful weighing 200-anything, Mason consistently was up against taller, heavier foes. Mason was the underdog in seven of its 10 games, but started with four straight victories, scored wins over AAA and AA schools, and closed the season with back-to-back wins in their single-A Bull Run District.
Mason even had a shot at making the playoffs until late in the season, when the outcome of an overtime game between two teams downstate tipped the wrong way, mathematically eliminating the Mustangs’ chances to advance.
Against Manassas Park, the Mustangs’ offensive stats were impressive. Almost 300 total yards gained – 230 on the ground and another 63 through the air. The 49 points scored were the most by a Mason team in 28 games going back more than two years.
The Mason defense had just one lapse. Manassas Park got a long return on the opening kickoff, then scored on its second play from scrimmage to go up 7-0, before the game was one minute old.
But the Mustangs quickly answered with Taylor’s 60-yard touchdown run and Henry Darmstadter’s successful extra-point kick tied the game, 7-7.
That’s where the score stood late in the first quarter when Veiga Diaz forced a fumble and recovered the ball on the Cougar 2. From there, on the first play of the second quarter, Palmieri ran it in for Mason. Darmstadter converted the PAT for a 14-7 Mason lead at the 11:56 mark in the quarter.
The next two times Manassas Park had the ball, Mason’s defense took it away almost immediately, and the offense scored.
Palmieri intercepted, and four plays later Taylor had his second rushing touchdown. Darmstadter kicked, and it was 21-7 Mason with 8:01 left in the second quarter.
Anderson recovered a fumble, and six plays later, Taylor had his third rushing touchdown. Darmstadter kicked, 28-7 Mason with 4:40 left in the quarter.
Mason’s defense bottled up Manassas Park at their own 10, and after a short punt, Mason took over at the Cougar 36.
Quarterback Duncan handed the ball to Kalantzis on what looked to be a reverse, but instead of running, Kalantzis let loose a pass that found Taylor at the one yard line.
The next play, Kalantzis took it across the goal. Darmstadter kicked, 35-7 Mason with 2:18 left in the quarter.
Mason points kept pouring in the third quarter. Taking the kickoff to start the second half, the Mustangs moved in nine plays to the Manassas Park 15, but there faced a fourth and four. Forsaking the conservative run, Mason Coach Tom Horn called a pass. Duncan saw Kalantzis slip the right-side coverage and hit him with a perfect toss at the flag. Darmstadter kicked, 42-7 Mason.
When the Cougars got the ball, it was a rerun of their earlier woes. Hirsch intercepted at the Manassas Park 28, and six plays later, Jordan scored. Darmstadter kicked, 49-7 Mason as the third quarter ended.
With the officials running a continuous clock in the fourth quarter, it wasn’t long before the game was done and the Mason seniors were leading their teammates in a midfield victory frolic.
The nine departing seniors will leave big shoes to fill on both offense and defense when the Mustangs take to the gridiron in 2010.
Mason will build next year on a corps of underclassmen who were significant contributors to this year’s team, and will look for senior leadership from its Class of 2011 players, Duncan, Hirsch, Mike Larcamp, Walter Porzel, Tyrone Thompson, Patrick Rhodes and Joseph Mondrey.