BULLDOGS ARE DEFINITELY THE "UNDER"DOGS AGAINST MASON
By mark rogers
December 13, 2011
First, let's start with a little about the Mason Cowpunchers. Mason's rushing attack is led predominantly by star running back David Mora, voted preseason Offensive Player of the Year by Dave Campbell's Texas Football Magazine.
Mora led the NATION in rushing last year with 3,573 yards on a Texas state-record 498 carries. This year he has only managed around 2,250 yards on the ground, while his backfield mates, Sr QB Austin Trip & Jr RB Rio Schmidt, have combined for another 2,250 yards rushing.
These gaudy rushing statistics are due to the "Fat Boys" up front (see San Angelo Standard Times Article). Mason returned all five starting offensive linemen, all seniors, who have now compiled a 26-2 record as starters.
Their only 2 losses (both in 2010) were to district foe and perennial powerhouse Goldthwaite. In 2011, the Punchers have scored 695 points (an average of just fewer than 50 per game), which is the second highest in Class 1A.
But it's not only their offense that has excelled. Through 14 games this season, Mason has allowed just 116 points (8 per game), including five shutouts, and limited the opposition to seven points or less on four other occasions. During their playoff run of 4 games against the best the state has to offer, they have still managed 43 ppg while allowing only 10.
For the entire season, Mason has only played ONE game in which they won by less than 22 points. That game was three weeks ago against Ganado, who had been the #1 team in Class 1A all season. Mason shut out Ganado, 7-0, in a defensive slugfest. Every other game, including the playoffs, has ended in Mason's favor by at least three TDs, often times more.
Needless to say, Mason has not struggled much in 2011. In fact, Mike Lee of the SA Standard Times wrote an article last week after Mason defeated Ganado saying they are now "the team to beat."
As Lee Corso would say, "Not so fast, my friend!"
I'm sure Mike Lee is only looking at rankings and win-loss records. After all, Stamford was only the 3rd place team in its district and barely squeaked by Olton in the first round. Almost all of their players are underclassmen. They can't possibly beat a senior-laden, battle tested Mason team, can they?
Yes they can! Here's why:
- District 4A - First, we must give credit to District 4A. Top-to-bottom, it may be the best in the State. However, when Stamford's QB Hagen Hutchison is healthy, this team is the best the district has to offer. In fact, Stamford avenged the back-to-back district losses against Albany and Seymour with back-to-back wins against those same teams on its way to the State Title game. Oh, and don't forget that Stamford opened the season with a lopsided victory against Munday, a team that can clinch the 1A Div.2 State Title immediately following the Stamford/Mason game Thursday in Arlington.
- Hutchison is healthy - Throughout much of the season, Hutchison was limited by a severe high-ankle sprain. If you pay enough attention, you can still see him limping on it at times during the games. However, he's as healthy as anyone else at this point in the season and healthier than he's been since about Week 2.
- Offensive Diversity -Mason hasn't played an offense as diverse as Stamford's this season. Sr Jesse Ramos is clearly the lead WR with 82 receptions, but Jr WR Dalton Mathis (35), Soph WR James Washington, and Jr RB Austin Alvarado (15) have provided depth. Also, Hutchison and Alvarado provide a nice 1-2 punch on the ground when the passing game needs a breather.
So there you have it. Four reasons why Stamford can do the unthinkable.
The last bullet point is the key for Stamford. When looking at Mason's opponents, every single one is, or seems to be, a run-first offense. Almost every single opponent had many more rushing attempts and yards than passing attempts and yards.
What's more is that several of their opponents had fewer than 5 passing attempts, while very few attempted more than 10 (Shiner & Ganado). Reread that last sentence and let that sink in...fewer than 5 passing attempts. This is all while their opponents are trailing by large margins.
Mason simply has not faced a balanced offensive attack like Stamford. Consider that Mason's opponents have only managed 75 passing yards/game for the year and only 62 ypg in the playoffs. There's good chance that the defending 1A state champ in the 200m (Ramos) will break a single play longer than that at some point Thursday.
Hutchison will attempt somewhere between 20-30 passes, and complete 15-20 of them, something the Cowpunchers have not seen all season.
Let me be clear on one point, though. Mason will be, by far, the best team Stamford has played all year. Don't expect a track meet. Neither team is likely to reach the 40s, and there's a good chance this game ends 28-27 or somewhere close to that.
The Bulldogs have played several run-heavy offenses, and though none do it as well as Mason, Stamford has to feel somewhat prepared on defense heading into the final game of the year.
Where it gets tricky is on the other side. Mason's defense will be unlike any the Bulldogs have faced. I'm just betting that the style of play Stamford employs, and the level at which they do it, will be too much for Mason. Let's hope so.