GEORGETOWN -- The Mason Punchers and Shiner Comanches arrived at Burt Birkelbach Field on Friday night to find a football stadium shrouded in a dense fog.
While it appeared to have no effect on the favored Punchers, the Comanches turned the ball over six times in seven first-half possessions and Mason built a 27-point halftime advantage on its way to a 55-7 win in the Class 1A Region IV Division I final.
With the win, Mason advanced to the state semifinal next week against Garrison, which shut out Lovelady 31-0 Friday.
Shiner came into the game riding a six-game winning streak which had seen its defense allow just 25 points combined, hoping to reverse last season's playoff loss to the Punchers.
Instead turnovers kept Shiner from having a shot to upend Mason, which was coming off a surprising 7-0 win over previous No. 1 Ganado.
After Mason was forced to punt on its opening possession, Shiner coughed up the ball on a fumbled snap, which was recovered by Elliot Bibb, the first of seven lost fumbles by the Comanches.
Mason quarterback Austin Trip cashed in on the seventh play of the Punchers' drive on a 15-yard option read keeper up the middle.
Two plays later Shiner fumbled the ball back to the Punchers, who weren't able to move the ball and punted for the second time.
After one quarter, the score stood at just 7-0 Mason.
In the second half the Punchers broke the game wide open.
Mason returned an interception down to the 4-yard line, and two plays later Mason running back David Mora punched it in from the 3.
Shiner's next three possessions ended in a fumble, the Comanches' lone touchdown and another fumble.
Mason scored on all four of their possessions and capitalized on a botched handoff in the waning seconds of the first half to tack on a second-straight field goal from Rio Schmidt.
The junior kicker nailed kicks from 30 and 33 yards out in the final 31 seconds of the second, giving Mason a 34-7 lead at the break.
"Those last couple of possessions of the first half were big for us because we were able to get some points out of them," Mason head coach Kade Burns said.
While the Comanches turned the ball over on six of seven possessions in the opening two quarters, the Mason offense churned out 193 yards and 10 first downs.
"That is a good football team over there, and we were fortunate to force quite a few turnovers," Burns said. "We told the kids on Monday that in film they have turned the ball over and put the ball on the ground.
"We told them to take advantage of that, and we were fortunate enough to take advantage of the first three drives they had and get points out of them."
If there was any one concern, the Punchers were flagged for 45 yards in penalties.
The Punchers opened up the second half by forcing a Shiner punt and going on a back-breaking 58-yard drive that lasted 11 plays and chewed up 5:24 off the third-quarter clock.
When Mora carried the ball in from 4 yards out, it gave the Punchers a 41-7 lead that was never in doubt. The senior running back carried on eight of the 11 plays on the drive as part of his 28-carry, 123-yard, four-touchdown night.
Mora's night was part of 294 rushing yards for the Punchers.
Mason lineman Korey Zavala said it was big for team to force early turnovers, because the Comanches were trying to atone for last season.
"It was huge to force those turnovers. The more we could keep their offense off the field, the better," Zavala said. "We like to keep our offense on the field with our running game and controlling the clock.
"We knew if we came in overconfident that it was going to be a tough battle because they wanted revenge."
Punchers senior Chance Stockbridge echoed his coaches' belief that the team could take advantage of the turnover-prone Comanches.
"They are an option team, so they have a bunch of threats, so those turnovers were huge," Stockbridge said. "We knew in the preseason that they turned the ball over a lot. We were looking forward to that, and they did it again tonight, and we capitalized on that."
Even with the big lead, the Mason defense never slowed down and continued to force turnovers in the second half.
The Punchers outscored Shiner 21-0 in the final 24 minutes. Shiner was held to just 147 yards rushing and 188 yards overall.
Now that Mason has advanced to the semifinals against Garrison, Stockbridge feels the diversity of the offense will help the Punchers.
"Last year all they did was key on our running attack," Stockbridge said. "Now we are more diverse and they can't just key on him. It helps a lot."
statistics source: http://www.gosanangelo.com/news/2011/dec/02/masonfootball/
TEAM STATISTICS: Mason Shiner First downs 18 8 Rushing Yards 54-294 25-147 Passing Yards 46 41 Comp-Att-Int 2-8-0 4-9-2 Fumbles-lost 1-0 10-7 Punts-avg. 3-40 2-17 Penalties-yards 8-50 5-51 SCORING SUMMARY: 1 2 3 4 -- Final Mason 14 20 14 7 -- 55 Shiner 0 7 0 0 -- 7 SCORING DETAILS: First Quarter MASON - 7:09, Austin Trip 15 run (Rio Schmidt kick) MASON - 4:08, David Mora 3 run (Schmidt kick) Second Quarter MASON - 11:11, Mora 3 run (Schmidt kick) MASON - 8:10, Mora 2 run (Schmidt kick) SHINER - 5:01, Evel Jones 3 run (Lucian Blaschke) MASON - 0:31, Schmidt 30 field goal MASON - 0:00, Schmidt 33 field goal Third Quarter MASON - 4:32, Mora 4 run (Schmidt kick) MASON - 0:37, Trip 1 run (Schmidt kick) Fourth Quarter MASON - 8:16, Elliot Bibb (Schmidt kick) INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS: Rushing Mason - David Mora 28-123, Raul Silguero 8-66, Austin Trip 6-40, Rio Schmidt 6-39, Chance Stockbridge 1-18, Elliot Bibb 3-(-1), Forrest Lingle 3-4; Shiner - Evel Jones 4-42, Marlon Wallace 4-10, Caleb Curtis 9-61, Jacob Stafford 7-(-2), Trevion Flowers 1-36. Passing Mason - Austin Trip 2-8-0, 46; Shiner - Jacob Stafford 4-11-2, 41. Receiving Mason - Kramer Watson 1-28, Schmidt 1-18; Shiner - Leo Baray 2-37, Wallace 1-2, Jones 1-2.