“Honestly, and I said this to the kids, they just played tougher than us,” Krause said. “They blocked us better than we blocked them. It’s what it came down to. It’s old-fashioned football.”
At the end of the first quarter, the Indians had held Mason to exactly zero yards of offense and were in the midst of a promising drive. However, a critical holding penalty stymied the threat. Eventually facing fourth-and-8, Krause elected to go for it, but Jeff Tyus’ pass to Erick All was tipped and incomplete.
“The holding call got us again,” Krause said. “We’ve had problems with holding calls down in the red zone this year, and we’ve had this problem in previous years too, but it bit us again. Mentally, I wasn’t really happy with how we came to play.”
Tyus, one of three 1,000-yard passers in the GMC, was held in check by Comet defense. The junior quarterback completed 8 of 16 passes for 75 yards and ran for 36 yards on eight carries. Taimar Boykin paced the Indians with 58 yards on 18 carries.
It was quarterback Will Adams and the Mason passing attack that helped to kick-start a stagnant Comets offense that had collected just one first down on its first three possessions. Adams’ 29-yard completion to Christian Hutchinson on the first play of Mason’s fourth drive of the game put the Comets in Fairfield territory for the first time.
“I think that they had eight guys in the box at one time,” Mason coach Brian Castner said. “Once we were able to get the ball downfield with some timely passing, we were at least able to flip the field position battle on them until we finally scored.”
Adams found Tanner Knue in the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown to give Mason a 7-0 lead with just 1:31 left in the first half. Adams completed 8 of 14 throws for 117 yards.
The TD pass for Adams was his seventh of the year and only his second in five weeks. Knue’s touchdown reception was his third for the Comets, who entered the contest ranked eighth in the Region 4 Harbin computer rankings.
“These guys have been called a lot of different things over the years,” Castner said. “This senior group has just come together over the course of this nine games and continued to grow stronger.”
Once Mason’s passing attack found some rhythm, the running lanes for standout senior running back Matt Sora began to open. Sora, the GMC’s third-leading rusher, carried 23 times for 98 yards and touchdown.
Sora, who was one of many Mason seniors potentially playing at Atrium Stadium for the final time, converted a critical fourth down to keep the eventual game-winning drive alive.
“We just continued to keep pushing and kept believing in each other,” Sora said. “Our offensive line worked their butts off tonight, and I can’t thank them enough. Sure, the lanes weren’t always there early in the game, but they continued to work hard. My hat goes off to them.”
For Sora, the reality of Senior Night was also weighing on his mind after the game.
“This is the last game on Dwire Field. It’s just crazy how fast time goes,” Sora said. “People tell you that it will be over in the blink of an eye, and you don’t believe them. Next thing you know, it’s here.”
Leading 7-0, the Comets immediately extended their lead on their opening drive of the second half. Again, timely passing mixed with Sora carries proved a valuable combination for Mason.
This time, Adams connected with Alec Dardis on a 44-yard pass to set up first-and-goal at the 10. Two plays later, Sora carried it in for a 3-yard touchdown, his 12th rushing TD of the season.
A fake PAT rush by Knue, the holder, gave Mason a two-point conversion and a 15-0 lead. The MHS defense did the rest.
“Our defense is playing at an all-time high for us,” Castner said. “I couldn’t be happier for them.”
Cole Pearce and Brian Whitney recovered fumbles for Mason, and Jake Bracher led all players with 14 tackles. Pearce’s fumble recovery crushed a budding comeback attempt by the Indians as it came just one play after Fairfield moved the ball to the Mason 22 on a completion to Jutahn McClain. On the play, Tyus was hit as he attempted to pitch the ball on an option, and Pearce easily recovered.
With the win, Mason moves from an outside lane to an inside lane in their chase for a postseason berth. A win at Lakota East next Friday would most likely be enough to send the Comets to the playoffs.
“We’re going to enjoy this one as much as we can,” Castner said. “Fairfield is a great team with some great players, and we may end up seeing them again this season. But we will move on from this and start to focus on going 1-0, which has been our motto around here for a long time.”
Fairfield, meanwhile, is turning its focus to 1-8 Middletown.
“I would hope that we’re not taking anyone lightly after the way we played tonight,” Krause said. “I don’t know if we were looking ahead to the playoffs, but I felt like we didn’t come mentally prepared like I want us to. And I hope our kids aren’t looking past Middletown. They have guys who can run, and with one or two big plays, we won’t be finishing the year the way we want.”
M: Tanner Knue 18 pass from Will Adams (Brooks Curran kick)
M: Matt Sora 4 run (Knue run)