What a great way to end a season. Not only for Mason High School, but for me as well. How many photographers get to cover a state championship football game at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington? Not many I'm guessing. After a week of running nothing but Mason High School football stories on the front page of the News and Sports sections, it was finally time to cover the much anticipated game on Thursday afternoon. I was pumped for a couple of reasons: 1. I was going to get to shoot at Cowboys Stadium. Even if you don't care for the Dallas Cowboys or even for football in general, anyone would be impressed with the size and beauty of the stadium, and 2. because it was a state title game. We've been building up to this game all week and it was finally just hours away.
Sports writers Mike Whitson and Quinton Martinez and I arrived at the Stadium at about 10:00am, two hours before the game started just so we could get checked in to the stadium, find where we needed to go, get all of our gear in place and cruise the building for a while. Mike and Quinton would be working out of the press box near the top of the building while I would be working out of the photographer's workroom near the field. This stadium is awesome and is arguably one of the coolest buildings I've ever been in. To stand on the field looking up at that enormous video screen hanging from the ceiling is something everyone should experience even if you care nothing for the Dallas Cowboys.
From the very get go, the Punchers were ready to play this game. This team was born to play this game on this day against this team. Personally, I think Stamford made the right choice by not letting the Punchers have the ball first. But, unable to move the ball effectively down the field against the Punchers' defense, Stamford punted the ball away five plays later. The first three plays went to Mason superstar David Mora. The fourth play was a quarterback keeper down the right sideline and the series ended with two more hand-offs to Mora for the touchdown to put the Punchers on the scoreboard. Both the defense and offense were on a roll for Mason. The celebration was short lived, however, as it only took 37 seconds and two plays from scrimmage for Stamford to get on the scoreboard with a pass for a touchdown. This game could get interesting.
After receiving the kickoff, Mason took control of the ball and the clock, marching down the field in a systematic manner, eating almost seven minutes off the clock before quarterback Austin Trip ran the ball in from the 1-yard line to put the Punchers back on top 14-7. That would be the score at the end of the first quarter. Mason would go on to score two more touchdowns to Stamford's one in the second quarter to head into the locker room at the half up 28-13.
The second half of the game was much like the first half, but it wasn't without a few close calls for Mason. The Punchers scored on their first possession making the score 35-13, but yielded 13 more points back to Stamford in about four minutes making the score 35-26. Stamford was now just nine points back from the Punchers and were building steam until a wayward pass was intercepted by Mason defensive back Winston Trip who returned the ball back to Stamford's 17-yard line. Two plays later Mason was knocking on the door of the endzone and at the beginning of the fourth quarter, Mason's David Mora ran the ball in to make the score 42-26.
The rest of the fourth quarter was a clinic on how to execute an offense by Mason. Stamford did manage to score two more touchdowns late in the quarter, but by that time Mason had built a substantial lead and were pretty much coasting with five minutes left in the game. You could almost feel the excitement build in the air as the seconds ticked off the game clock. After all the hard work put in by the coaches and players and all the support given by the fans, the Mason Punchers would complete the season a perfect 15-0 winning the Class 1A, Division I State Championship 62-40. This would be the first football championship for the school.
The roof of Cowboys Stadium nearly lifted off from the explosion of cheers from the stands and the sideline. High-fives and hugs were given, tears shed and wiped away. It was an awesome moment, one that I don't get to experience very often. But, it can also be a stressful moment because of all the activity happening on the field. I want to make sure to capture as much of the jubilation as possible. Obviously, David Mora was named the game offensive MVP finishing with 5 touchdowns and over 250 yards rushing. But the real surprise for me was who was picked as the defensive MVP. The athlete picked was defensive back Chance Stockbridge. I thought for sure it was going to be Korey Zavala. Stockbridge finished the game with nine tackles and an interception returned 46 yards for a touchdown. This team was very deserving of the state title and I was happy to have been a witness to their triumph. Go Punchers!