Game days for the Mason High School defense are about more than just football.
They’re like weekly math quizzes — and the Comets have been passing with flying colors.
Going into Friday’s 7 p.m. Greater Miami Conference regular-season finale at Lakota East, Mason (7-2 overall, 5-2 GMC) leads the conference in total defense, allowing an average of 204.1 yards per game, and scoring defense with an average of 11 points per game. The Comets have posted four shutouts, three in the GMC, including each of the last two games, and they allowed just one score in another game.
The key to Mason’s defense is a simple formula — 9-5-90, according to coach Brian Castner.
“We want to see nine players within five yards of the ball 90 percent of the time,” Castner said. “The last three weeks, we’ve been above 90 percent. For us, as tough as we are grading-wise on Saturdays, that’s pretty good. Three shutouts in the GMC with another one or two really close is saying something.”
They’re hoping to ace the final on Friday against the Thunderhawks’ challenging triple-option offense that leads the GMC with an average of 329.2 yards per game of total offense and 281.7 yards on the ground. Junior fullback Jack Dobrozsi still is second in the GMC with 974 rushing yards, even though he and several teammates haven’t played in the last two games. East (6-3, 4-3) has lost two of the last three games.
Whether the missing Thunderhawks would be available against Mason was undetermined Thursday, but the LEHS offensive game plan still can be a problem because it’s rarely seen.
“They’re always a challenge,” Castner said. “Colerain, them and sometimes you see it here and there with teams that run it as a package. It’s a challenge in high school and college because you don’t see it that much. You worry about teams that run the triple-option.”
The Comets’ defense is well-rounded with senior lineman Zaid Hamdan ranking third in the GMC with 5 ½ sacks and two defensive backs — junior Dominick Nigro and senior Tyree Mizell — among the top five in interceptions. Nigro is tied for second with four and Mizell tied for fourth with three.
“It starts with the players, obviously,” Castner said. “They’ve really stepped up and believe in what Coach (Barak) Faulk and his staff have done. They believe in the scheme and getting after offenses, and they take it personally every Friday night. They’re relentless. I’ll take it to the end of the road. Defense wins big games. If you don’t play well defensively, you’d better have a good offense.”
Mason’s offense is in the middle of the GMC in average total, rushing and passing yards, but the Comets are second with an average of 26.2 points per game. Senior quarterback-defensive back Will Adams is fourth with 877 passing yards, while senior running back Matt Sora is third with 871 rushing yards.
Another math problem Mason needs to solve Friday is its Harbin Division I, Region 4 Harbin computer rating. Eight teams in each of four regions around the state qualify for the playoffs, and the Comets are fifth in their region and East is 10th. That seems safe to Castner, but he’s just not sure.
“I would think so, but I don’t want to say we’ve clinched anything,” he said. “I know we’re pretty darn close. We want to make sure we lock it up completely.”