By Natalie Heavren
George Mason High School football (3-3) fell to Warren County High School in a close, 37-33, game last week.
“We played fantastic in stretches on Friday but I think clearly we need to continue to keep up the intensity in the second half. This is two games in a row we have slowed down offensively instead of completely putting teams away late in the contest,” said Mason head coach Adam Amerine.
“[We] need to clean up all three phases of the game. We lost points on special teams, didn’t tackle great on defense, and obviously had a couple big turnovers on offense.”
The Mustangs had an impressive first half, leading 26-7 after the first 24 minutes of play.
However, both the offense and defense down shifted in the second half and the Wildcats scored the winning touchdown with 22.6 seconds left in the game.
Despite the circumstances, Mason did not quit and moved the ball from the 45 yard line to within the 10. The Mustangs had two chances to score from that position but ultimately failed to.
Amerine reflected on his team’s effort on the last drive saying, “I have to credit [sophomore quarterback Evans] Rice and [senior wide receiver Enzo] Paradiso making a great play there to give us a shot to win. Just needed to make one more play.”
Amerine believes this can game can be a turning point in regard to maintaining leads.
“We stress 48 minutes every week and we let up and it snowballed in Warren’s favor. I don’t believe we’ll let that happen again.”
Still, Amerine has seen improvements week-to-week. “We have been able to expand the playbook on both sides of the ball and the kids are executing fairly well. Our pass blocking is getting better each week allowing us to think about throwing more. If we can become a threat in the air, it will just open up the run game.”
Rice was 3-6 for 173 yards and two touchdowns, a significant improvement from games earlier in the season.
Overall Amerine points to two improvements he would still like to see going forward — cleaning up the penalties during the games and controlling the team’s emotions, especially in tight, competitive games.
The goal for the team over the bye week was to get healthy, however, junior linebacker Walter Roou injured his knee in the first quarter. He is the third starting linebacker to go down with an injury this season, which are a recurring problem for the team.
The Mustangs have still been able to succeed this season despite the injuries in part due to their depth. Amerine identified sophomore linebacker Joshua Stillwagoner as someone who impressed him against Warren County.
“Stillwagoner is really becoming a great leader at linebacker, he took over as the lone remaining starter from August after Roou went down in the first quarter and got everyone lined up, led us in tackles, very impressive for a sophomore.”
Stillwagoner had 11 tackles, two for a loss, as well as an interception.
Senior running back/defensive back Connor Plaks was successful on both sides of the ball. He rushed for 118 yards and two touchdowns on 17 attempts and had five tackles as well as an interception.
The Mustangs return home to take on Central High School on Friday at 7 p.m.