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Bryan Hudnell | Staff Writer

Team 55 has made history.

With a stat line of 39 carries, 250 yards, and 3 touchdowns, junior running back Matt Sora was able to help Mason secure their first Division I Postseason victory after defeating the Elder Panthers in a 21-20 thriller at Dwire Field.

Sora said that the playoff win was a huge milestone for the program and the offensive line helped play a huge role in the win.

“Tonight we made history and it’s a great feeling,” Sora said. “My line blocked their hearts out today, and I couldn’t thank them enough.”

The Comets faced adversity early in the second quarter. Deep inside Elder territory, junior quarterback Jake Harris’ pass was intercepted by junior cornerback Nick Hilsinger and returned it for 60 yards to the Mason 35. After a 23-yard touchdown reception from sophomore wide receiver Kyle Trischler, Elder had a 14-7 lead and was slowly gaining momentum.

The offense quickly responded with a 12-yard touchdown run by Sora to tie the score at 14 before the half. Head coach Brian Castner praised his team for being able to overcome adverse circumstances.

“We’re a resilient team,” Castner said. “This team had a lot left in the tank and didn’t want to see this season end. They wanted to make history and wanted to make sure that Team 55 was going to be remembered.”

With 2:48 remaining in the third quarter, Elder senior running back Tiariq Dailey was not ruled down when he landed on a Comet player and got back up to finish the play with a 25-yard touchdown run. The extra point was blocked by a swarm of Comets, making the score 20-14 to end the third quarter.

Early in the fourth quarter, The Comets forced Elder to punt and started their drive with great field position at their own 49-yard line. After a series of running plays, Sora broke off of a 30-yard rush and scored his third touchdown on the night, giving the Comets a one point lead with 9:33 left in the game.

The Panthers took the field in need of a field goal to regain the lead. On third-and-6, junior quarterback Danny Nieman completed a 29-yard pass for a critical first down.  After two plays for minimal yardage, Elder needed to convert another third-and-6 in order to extend the drive. Junior defensive lineman Zaid Hamdan had other plans, sacking Nieman deep in the backfield and forcing the Panthers to punt.

Mason needed to chew up clock and did just that. Sora carried the ball for 11 straight plays, gaining first down after first down. Castner was pleased with Sora and the offense for being able to drain the clock.

“It was a great thing to see,” Castner said. Offenses today like to throw all of these pretty passes and throw the ball all over the place, but I’ll tell you what, I’d much rather take the 11 runs and keep gaining yardage and have the time of possession on our side.”

After using up over 6 minutes of clock, the Comets punted the ball away and were able to down the punt at the Elder 1-yard line, and with less than 30 seconds, this was too much for the Panthers to overcome.

Sora and senior running back Michael Kopaygorodsky rushed for a total of 304 rushing yards between the two of them. Castner said he has a lot of trust in his two workhorses.

“They’re workhorses,” Castner said. “They just eat, breathe, and sleep football and want the ball in their hands. If there is a hole, they’re going to get four yards every time.”

Kopaygorodsky left the game with an ankle injury in the second quarter, which meant Sora had to carry the rest of the load. Castner said he wasn’t sure how serious the injury is going forward.

“It’s definitely something on his ankle, Castner said. “We don’t know too much about the injury yet. They have to get x-rays still, but he’s a tough kid, so you’ll never know.”

With Sycamore’s 42-20 win over Lebanon, the Comets will face the Aviators for a rematch of the Battle of the Skies in the regional semifinal. Sora said he wanted to avenge the 17-10 loss in Week 10.

“They took something from us, and we want it back,” Sora said.

Check out the article on the CSPN: http://thecspn.com/?p=41126

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