MASON – Eaton Rapids and Mason have been duking it out on the football field since, at least, 1950. But it’s been since 1961 that the two Lansing-area programs have battled every year.
And for the past 23 seasons, the result has been one-sided.
The Bulldogs continued to have the Greyhounds’ number Thursday night as they extended their winning streak in the series to 23 games with a 28-7 victory at Mason High School.
“We didn’t mention (the winning streak) until halftime,” said coach Jerry VanHavel, who’s been at the helm since 1991. “To be honest, we didn’t play very well in the first half. Eaton Rapids played harder than us and deserved to be ahead. We were lucky for it to be a tied game.
“Our kids are great kids, but football is an emotional game. We have to start playing it that way.”
Mason took no time equaling its point total from last week – defeating Okemos, 7-0 – as senior Brandon Showers went untouched on the opening kick and returned the ball 86 yards for a touchdown.
Eaton Rapids was on the brink of tying the contest toward the end of the first quarter when quarterback Zach Kemp launched a deep ball to Drew Shafer, who blew past two defenders, but the ball hit his outstretched arms before falling to the ground.
However, with 6:14 remaining in the first half, Kemp helped even the game when he ran the ball in the end zone from one yard out on fourth and goal. The play was set up by a Bulldogs (2-0) special teams miscue and a 19-yard pass from Kemp to Shafer, who finished with eight receptions for 74 yards
Mason’s D.J. Putnam attempted to give his team a three-point lead with a 33-yard field goal with seconds remaining in the second quarter, but Eaton Rapids blocked it and went into halftime with the game tied at seven.
The Bulldogs quickly recaptured the lead in the third quarter when Andy Ferguson forced a fumble on the Greyhounds’ (1-1) Michael Herig. The ball was recovered by Storm Miller, who returned it nearly 10 yards before being brought down.
Mason capitalized with a 10-play, 35-yard drive that was capped by a two-yard touchdown run by Ferguson to take a 14-7 lead.
“Once they scored that second touchdown, we started hanging our heads,” said Kemp, who threw for 100 yards. “We needed to pick it back up. They started moving the ball on us again when they got that fumble, and things started turning from there.”
And after the defense forced yet another three-and-out midway through the third quarter, the Bulldogs put together a 16-play, 69-yard drive that was once again finished with a short-yardage touchdown run by Ferguson, who had 64 yards on 20 carries, with 9:28 remaining in the game.
Mason quarterback Brad Wilton put a bow on the night with a 25-yard touchdown run with 1:53 left to play. The Bulldogs’ defense setup the score by forcing Eaton Rapids to turn the ball over on downs in its own territory.
“Mason football has always been a ball-running team, grinding the ball and running hard,” Ferguson said. “In the past, we’ve veered away from that. And with the loss of great talent that we had, this year has gone back to the way it used to be. Everyone has had to have their motor up, everyone’s had to work hard, and the (offensive) line has had to pick up some slack for the (new) backs.
“We had to run the ball tonight and we did a good job.”
Contact James L. Edwards III at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JLEdwardsIII.