The senior displayed confidence as the centerpiece of the Indians' new attack.
By JOE SCALZO
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
GIRARD -- It's a tough question for Girard's Randy Mason to answer.
The 6-foot-2, 175-pound senior quarterback can tell you how much he likes the Indians' new offense -- how it puts the game in his hands; how it lets him make quick decisions.
But ask him his favorite play? Suddenly the sharp mind draws a blank.
"I guess eight-10 all go," he said. "No wait, make it 220."
Are you sure?
"Man, it's hard to pick one. There's so many."
It was a moment of rare indecision. With Mason commanding Girard's spread-out, shotgun, four-to-five receiver, pass-happy offense, the Indians out-gunned Niles 28-21 last Friday.
Productive: Against the Dragons, Mason completed 21-of-43 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns. He ran for another. He kicked all the extra points. He threw just one interception.
"I feel pretty comfortable back there," he said. "I took some sacks I shouldn't have, where I should have got rid of the ball. I made a couple bad decisions, but I feel confident."
Saying the Indians' offense is quarterback-friendly is like saying Britney Spears is moderately attractive. So when Mason was asked whether he likes the scheme, his face broke out into a wide smile.
"Oh, definitely," Mason said. "This is the best offense a quarterback can be in. It lets you decide the game."
New offense: Mason replaced Jason Collins, who threw for 2,200 yards and 19 touchdowns last year. Girard coach Bud McSuley and offensive coordinator Nick Cochran started tinkering with the new offense last year, opening it up for the second half of the season.
"Basically, we went to it out of necessity last year," McSuley said. "We weren't real big up front and we had a tough time blocking. Cochran went to the shotgun the last couple games and we worked on it real hard this summer."
Mason, a co-captain this season, ran a variation of the offense as the junior varsity quarterback last year. He carries a 3.7 grade-point average and has been the starting point guard for the basketball team for two years. A starter at receiver last year, Mason saw limited time at quarterback, completing 11-of-19 passes for 290 yards.
"He's a great kid," McSuley said. "He's got great leadership qualities and he makes plays."
Targets: Wideouts Dustin Helle (30 receptions, 486 yards, two touchdowns in 2000) and Anthony Jackson (18 catches, 353, four touchdowns) are Mason's main targets. Jackson caught eight passes against Niles for 116 yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner. John Hepfner and Walter Jones lead the running game.
"There's definitely some quality skill guys," McSuley said. "He has a lot of weapons."
The team went 5-5 last season, and could compete for a playoff spot this year. A lot rests on Mason's shoulders, and there are things he still needs to work on.
"He's got to see the field better," McSuley said. "He needs to recognize defenses quicker, recognize stunts, and get us in the best possible play that he can."
Lot of help: Luckily, Mason is getting plenty of help. "Our line blocked great last week," Mason said of the Niles game. "We played pretty good and our receivers did a good job getting extra yards after the catch."
Neither Mason nor McSuley expect to throw the ball over 40 times a game regularly. Hepfner and Jones give the Indians good balance, and a lot depends on the other team's game plan.
"If they decide to cover our [receivers] man-to-man, we'll spread the field and stretch it deep," McSuley said. "We gotta make sure the quarterback makes the correct call."
"If they put eight men in the box, of course we're going to pass the ball," he said. "We'll take what the defense gives us."