MARBLE FALLS—Displaying a running game befitting a state champion, Mason High, on the final night in November, showed that a ground attack can overcome impressive aerial pursuits, and the Punchers galloped past Thorndale, 49-35, to advance to the Class-A, Division I quarterfinals. They’ll take a 27-game winning streak (12-0 in 2012) against Shiner.
“We were able to do some things to keep the ball out of their hands in the second half,” said head coach Kade Burns. He’s in his second year in Mason after two seasons of leading Thorndale.
Three Punchers—a remarkable number—each ran for more than 130 yards. Luis Castillo, who scored three times, rushed for 133; Rio Schmidt, on what seemed like a quiet night for him, “only” collected 135, and Elliot Bibb amassed 155. The total on the ground was 504 of 600 yards total offense.
Bulldog quarterback Riley Schaefer had a huge first half throwing the ball and led his squad in position to take the lead two and a half minutes before intermission, but Luis intercepted his toss at the Mason 20-yard-line to end that drive. The Punchers were up 21-20 at the break.
“We had to drive the ball hard, stay focused, and score,” declared Castillo, who tied the game at 7-7 with a 41-yard run in the opening period. “The holes opened up, and it played out for us,” he said of the scamper.
Thorndale had another opportunity in the third quarter to go in front, but Bibb and Raul Silguero made crucial stops. Schaefer raced 40 yards to the 12, and it appeared he had an excellent chance to go the distance, but Silguero made—truly—a touchdown-saving tackle. “You never know when those plays are going to come,” advised Burns. “They’re difference makers in the game.”
Indeed. Because Bibb picked off Schaefer’s pass into the end zone. “We went to man-to-man coverage,” Bibb told me. “I saw the play happening, moved toward it, and the ball fell into my hands.” The score remained 21-20, Mason, early in the third.
The Castillo twins were a potent presence in the 80-yard drive which followed. Luis took a short pass and turned it into a 19-yard advance, and on third-and-11 from the Puncher 46, Bibb went to Miguel over the middle. He finished off a 54-yard TD. The advantage was now eight points.
“We talk to each other a lot about the games,” Luis mentioned. “It’s good competition; if one does well, the other wants to do better.”
Silguero was better than the Thorndale defense with under four minutes left in the third period. He took baby steps to get beyond the line of scrimmage and adult strides to race 59 yards to lengthen the highlight reel.
“I didn’t play much in the first half,” Raul stated, “but I watched Rio and how he ran. I waited patiently on the sideline; when I got my chance, I made the most of it.”
While Price Miller reduced the deficit to 35-28 with a score from the two, the Mason secondary was doing a much better job in the second half.
“We made adjustments in coverage,” said Burns, “and we played more aggressively.”
On a night of big plays, Bibb may have made the biggest with just over 10 minutes left on the clock. He faked to his right and bootlegged to the left. It was no contest for most of the 50-yard sprint. “On the previous play I saw the defense slant down, and I told the coach I could score; the linemen did so well opening the holes.”
Not exactly the end of the story: Bibb ran into his quarterback-counterpart, Schaefer, near the five. It was one-on-one, and Bibb bulled his way through Riley to reach the end zone. “Pure luck, I guess; I got him that time.” More than luck, I guess, pure or otherwise.
And about that offensive line, which has been so key in Mason coming up with 84 points in two playoff games: Kramer Watson, Drigo Martinez, Marcuss Martinez, Kolby Yonker, Hector Medina, and Kyle Zavala.
It took only 17 seconds for the “comfortable” 41-28 lead to become not so. Seth Barker of the Bulldogs went 90 yards on the kickoff. Reset the suspense.
Bibb, Schmidt, the twins, and the O-line had a response. Rio, who had scored his team’s second TD in the first quarter and authored a 50-yard maneuver to set up Luis for a 21-14 lead, also in the wild first stanza, crafted a 30-yard burst. Luis, on three consecutive runs, took care of the last 51 yards of the punishing, game-clinching 91-yard march. Bibb went to Miguel for the two-point conversion, and the final score was set in stone.
The contest against Shiner is 7:30 pm, Friday, at the Kelly Reeves Complex in Round Rock. The Comanches, champions of District 15-A, beat Weimar 27-6 to reach the quarterfinals.
Kade Burns, who authored his own classy play-call by having Bibb take a knee in the closing seconds when their team was at the Bulldog one, spent time after the game talking with his former players and colleagues at Thorndale. “It was neat to see them on film during the week and see how they’ve developed; they should be proud.“Both teams played real hard and left it on the field. That’s all you can ask.”