Sports

Mustangs Come Close, Fall to Woodgrove, 21-20

George Mason’s football varsity staged an exciting fourth quarter comeback last Friday at Woodgrove High School, mounting a 70-yard drive capped by a Stephen Lubnow touchdown run that lifted the Mustangs to within one point of the host Wolverines with 25 seconds on the clock.

George Mason’s football varsity staged an exciting fourth quarter comeback last Friday at Woodgrove High School, mounting a 70-yard drive capped by a Stephen Lubnow touchdown run that lifted the Mustangs to within one point of the host Wolverines with 25 seconds on the clock.

But joy then quickly turned to misery for the Mustangs, who tried for a two-point conversion and the win, only to be stopped mere inches from the goal line by Woodgrove, which escaped with a 21-20 victory.

Mason bested Woodgrove in almost every category except the final score. The Mustangs had more first downs (17, to 7 for the Wolverines), more rushing yards (255 to 166), and more passing yards (52 to 24).

In addition, several Mustangs turned in strong individual performances. Lubnow, a junior, carried the ball 17 times for 145 yards, including a thrilling 51-yard dash down the sidelines on the Mustangs’ final drive that set up his short touchdown carry two plays later.

Mason junior Bryce Cooper had 16 carries for 72 yards, and senior quarterback Tyler Duncan found him for a 14-yard pass completion on a drive early in the fourth quarter that ended three plays later with Cooper scoring a touchdown on a 14-yard run.

A longer pass helped set up another Mustang score: In the first quarter, Duncan heaved the ball downfield to senior end Brandon Alexander for a 38-yard gain. That led to a 35-yard field goal by Henry Darmstadter. The sophomore kicker already had one field goal to his credit, a 24-yarder on the Mustangs’ game-opening drive.

The Mustangs’ defense thwarted one scoring threat when junior linebacker Vance Romero recovered a Woodgrove fumble at the Mason 21-yard-line. And Mason’s beefy senior guard Mike Larcamp helped his offense dodge a bullet with a nifty midair fumble recovery after a Wolverine pass-rusher blind-sided quarterback Duncan, knocking the ball from his hand. Falling to the turf, Duncan kicked the loose ball in the direction of Larcamp, who gathered it in and rumbled forward six yards, dragging three Woodgrove defenders with him.

Woodgrove’s victory rested in large part on three plays. The first was a run by Atem Ntangtang, who slipped the grasp of multiple Mason defenders and broke a 67-yard touchdown run that (after the PAT kick by Robert Warfel) gave Woodgrove a 7-6 lead early in the second quarter. Their second big break was blocking a Mustang punt late in the third quarter; that set up the Wolverines on Mason’s 10-yard-line, and their running back Joshua Sweet immediately scored, putting Woodgrove up 14-6 following Warfel’s PAT kick.

Mason answered with Cooper’s touchdown run and a two-point conversion run by sophomore Brian Crigler, making it 14-all. But then fortune again smiled on Woodgrove: on one of their running plays the ball squirted forward into Mason’s end zone, and even though two Mustang defenders seemed to have an angle on recovering it, the player who emerged from the pile in possession was Woodgrove’s Jacob Williams, for a touchdown. Warfel’s PAT kick put the Wolverines up 21-14. That set the stage for Mason’s final dramatic touchdown drive and their failed two-point try.

Injuries continue to plague the Mustangs, who are down to barely more than a dozen players with much varsity experience. Numerous key contributors are among the walking wounded, including seniors Sebastian Askin, Walter Porzel and Patrick Rhodes. Earlier, senior Mitch Hirsch sustained a season-ending injury, as did juniors Nico De Ocampo and Jonathan Freeman.

On their final touchdown drive against Woodgrove, Mason had just four seniors on the field — Duncan, Larcamp, Alexander and David McAlpin. The team’s two other seniors saw action during the game — Tyrone Thompson and Jackson Thomas

The Mustangs are relying heavily on five juniors — Lubnow, Cooper, Romero, Trevor Simpson and Spencer Trevisan — and four sophomores — James Hickey, Jakob Hirsch, Crigler and kicking specialist Darmstadter. Two other juniors also contribute — William Amaya and Kurt Newman — as do two other sophomores — Austin Nooter and Jared Harvey.

The depletion of Mason’s ranks via injury is creating opportunity for younger players: Freshman Jake Acosta got significant playing time against Woodgrove, and his ninth grade classmates James Coppock, Jacob Eye and Grant Hagler also were in the game.

Next Mason must contend with two very tough Bull Run District opponents — Clarke County this Friday at home (kickoff 7:30), then Madison County on the road next Friday. Clarke has not lost a district game in three years, they pummeled Mason 48-0 last year, and in rolling to a 6-0 record this season they have outscored their opponents by an average of 30 points. Madison also looks formidable; they are 5-1 and have a bye this Friday to rest up before hosting Mason Oct. 22.

 

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