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September 12, 2012After three weeks of battling non-conference foes, the Mason Comets make their way to Firebird Stadium to take on Lakota West in this week's US Marines Backyard Battle.
The Comets dropped their first game of the year, but have bounced back with two straight wins. The Firebirds started off fast and look impressive in victories over LaSalle, Glen Este, and Anderson.
Kickoff: 7:30 p.m.
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PLAYERS TO WATCH: Two of the GMC's top four rushers will showcase their skills in the backfield. Mason's Darryl Johnson leads the league with 535 yards giving him 2,001 and 24 touchdowns on the ground in his career. The massive Elijah Nkansah leads the way for him up front. The Comets don't throw often but when they do Joey Thomas has found a way to make big plays happen. The defense has discovered their hard-nosed identity behind a core group of seniors that includes Andrew Hauser, Corey Quallen, Tyler Swallen, Randy Anderson, Bailey Bunch and Jacob Noxsel.
Mikel Horton is fourth in the league with 426 yards rushing for Lakota West. His way is paved up front by heavily recruited tackle Kyle Meadows and Ben Pendery, a three-year starter at center. Malik Grove has settled in at quarterback. Tyler Jones gives the team a deep threat at receiver. Linebacker Mike Kelly leads the Firebirds in tackles. His classmates on the line, Adam Miller and Luke Scott, have had great starts to their senior seasons. Cornerback Nick Bengal is one of the GMC's top defensive backs.
TEAM TRENDS: Both teams enter tonight's affair at 3-0. The schools did not play last year. Lakota West is 2-1 lifetime versus Mason in league play. It is all about the defense in this tilt. Over the last 10 games the most points that Mason has given up in a game is 21. The Comets are 8-2 in that span, their best run since they joined the GMC back in 2007. In Week 2, Lakota West recorded their first shutout since October of 2009. The Firebirds have won five of their last six games dating back to 2011.
LAKOTA WEST'S KEYS TO VICTORY: It is imperative for the defense to get as many three-and-outs in this game as possible. The Firebirds last two opponents have ran the ball against them 91 total times. That trend will continue with Mason. If the defense can withstand a rushing onslaught for a third straight week and not wear down the Firebirds will be in this clash until the end.
MASON'S KEYS TO VICTORY: Mason makes no bones about how they like to control the clock with their running game. Johnson has rushed the ball 53 percent of the time that the Comets have called a play on offense. This has allowed head coach Brian Catner the time his defense needs to stay off the field and remain fresh. The strategy has worked as the Comets are giving up just 6.3 points per contest.
PREDICTION: MASON 14, LAKOTA WEST 13