Veteran leaders, young talent team up to lead comets to another winning season
Rahul Parikh | Sports Editor
They weren’t supposed to be here.
The Mason football team finished the regular season 8-2, tying their best Division one finish in school history. The Comets were 7-1 in GMC (Greater Miami Conference) play. After losing countless starters and talent from last year’s senior class, the Comets were expected to treat this year as ‘rebuilding,’ as expectations were lower than in many years past.
This season, the Comets succeeded with a combination of veteran senior leadership and young, fresh talent. Senior Running Back Logan Dalton, who eclipsed 1,000 rushing yards in the regular season, said the team was very motivated by the low expectations to start the season.
“We had so many people who didn’t believe in us,“ Dalton said. “ From teachers, to students, to people in our own program, which really served as motivation for us to believe in our abilities.”
From the start of the season, the Comets were playing with a chip on their shoulder, fighting out a 10-6 win against Springboro in the opener, but dropping their second game at Lasalle 34-21. Junior Wide Receiver Alec Dardis said the team maintained their confidence and stayed positive for the weeks after.
“We knew this season would be a marathon, not a sprint, and that game wouldn’t define who we were this season,” Dardis said. “We stayed confident because we still had eight games left in the season to keep winning.”
Following the loss, the Comets rattled off four wins in a row, including a 30-27 victory in an overtime thriller, against the Sycamore Aviators, in the annual ‘Battle of the Skies.’
Dardis said the win against Sycamore was a huge momentum boost for the Comets, who would go on to win 5 of their last 6 games.
“The Sycamore win was the turning point in our season; winning that game and fighting it out through overtime was a huge victory to keep us going,” Dardis said.
Sophomore running back Nolan McCormick burst onto the scene this year to give the Comets depth in their running game and another reason to be optimistic for the 2019 season.
Senior Kicker and Linebacker Charley Sipe was essential to the Comets’ winning this year. Sipe converted on all 23 of his extra point attempts, and 14 out of his 15 field goal attempts, with a long of 48.
Sipe said he was successful in kicking the ball this year because of the group effort of the field goal unit and coaching.
“We have a great new kicking coach this year with coach Watts,” Sipe said. “The snaps and the holds have been tremendous as well, Nick Niehoff has really been the foundation for always getting the ball ready and giving me a chance.”
In the Comet’s final regular season game against Fairfield Sipe drilled a 42-yarder to send the game into overtime, and a 30-yarder in overtime to win the game. It was a huge victory for the Comets, securing a home playoff game, and it was Sipe’s third game winner of the year, with the others coming on another 42-yarder against Sycamore, and a 39-yarder against Princeton.
Watching his kick go through the uprights to beat Fairfield, Sipe said he was overwhelmed by the shock of the moment.
“Everything went perfectly, and I tried not to overthink and just knock the kick through,” Sipe said. “ I was so shocked with how crazy the situation was, I didn’t even know what to think at first.”
Following the loss of many seniors from last year’s team, the coaching staff emphasized the importance of the current seniors to guide the younger players throughout the season. Dalton, who played behind star Running Back Matt Sora last season, found it important to imprint values in the younger players so they would be set up for the most success in their futures.
“It was challenging at first, but I feel like we have instilled great mentalities in the young guys in order for them to be able to lead in the future,” Dalton said. “Hopefully they are able to take something from our senior class, and use it when they become leaders.”
Throughout this season, the Comets had many obstacles to work through in order to continue winning and overcome the talent deficit they faced from last year. A huge factor in maintaining the same success with a less experienced group is the coaching. Dardis said Head Coach Brian Castner and his staff have given the team confidence that they could win every game.
“Obviously, we lost a talent last year, but Coach Castner instilled the mindset early that we would be just as good this year as we were last year,” Dardis said. “I feel like throughout this season, we’ve proved that mindset right and exceeded everyone’s expectations.”
Looking forward, players like Sophomore Running Back Nolan McCormick, and Juniors Colin Brown and Alec Dardis, hope to continue the success of the Comets this season, and keep the same mentality.
Dardis said that the performance of McCormick throughout the year generates excitement for the coming years.
“We’re looking forward to the future; Nolan McCormick and other underclassmen are developing really well and proved they belong this season,” Dardis said. “ I’m proud of our success this year and look forward to next year.”
Photo by Tanner Pearson.