Mason a winner on and off the field

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 18, 2000

MICHAEL KIRAL / L’Observateur / November 18, 2000

RESERVE – South Lafourche had just scored to tie East St. John at 21 with1:16 left in the teams’ season finale when Brandon Mason went back toreceive the Tarpons’ kickoff.

Few expected Mason to get the chance to return the kick. After all, he hadburned South Lafourche for an 89-yard return in the Wildcats’ 28-20victory over the Tarpons in the bi-district playoffs last year.

But the Tarpons decided to kick against history. And sure enough, Masontook the ball at his 15 and took it the distance, going 85 yards for thewinning touchdown with 1:03 left.

“I feel every time I touch the ball I can take it the distance,” Mason saidof what went through his mind as he went back to receive the kick.

“Itseems like every time we play South Lafourche, I take it the distance. Itook one back last year and this year.”

The victory was a big one for East St. John. It clinched second place inDistrict 7-5A for the Wildcats and sent them into the playoffs on a six-game winning streak. That streak was extended to seven with a 34-6victory over John F. Kennedy in the bi-district playoffs. The win advancedthe Wildcats to the regionals against Shaw last night.

The season got off to a slow start with a 27-7 loss at Lutcher.

But thenext week, the Wildcats came back with a 20-0 over St. James. A victoryover Warren Easton followed the next week.

“We started putting it together against St. James,” Mason said.

“Webounced back from a loss to Lutcher and shut out a pretty good St. Jamesteam.”

East St. John dropped its first District 7-5A game to Hahnville and thendid not lose again in the regular season. That streak included a 17-14victory at Destrehan, the four-time defending district champions, and a24-21 win at Neville, then the 11-ranked team in the state.

“Going there and beating Neville, we knew we could play with anybody inthe state,” Neville said.

Mason’s kickoff return against South Lafourche certainly wasn’t the firstbig play that he had made for the Wildcats in his four years on the team.

The three-year starter at cornerback is among the area leaders with seveninterceptions this year. He has also seen time at running back for theWildcats, scoring twice on runs.

Last year, Mason made 33 tackles, 30 unassisted, in being named to theAll-River Parishes squad. He was especially a thorn in the side of SouthLafourche, returning an interception for a score and setting up anothertouchdown with a fumble recovery deep in Tarpon territory in the regularseason finale. A week later in the playoffs, he sealed the Wildcats’ winwith an interception in addition to his kickoff return.

Mason was also one of the top baseball players in the region this year. Heprovided leadership at shortstop and batted .307 with 26 stolen bases.

Mason has also excelled off the field, both in the classroom and in thecommunity. He has maintained a 3.7 grade point average in his three-plusyears at East St. John. Outside of school, he helps young athletes andprovides tutoring.

“I know if I don’t work hard on my grades, I can’t play football anyway,”Mason said. “The Lord has blessed me with ability and with the ability tohelp others.”

Mason was recently recognized for his work in all three phases, beingselected as a state finalist for the Wendy’s High School Heisman Award.

To be eligible for the award, students must have completed their junioryear, have maintained a B+ GPA, participated in a sanctioned sport andhave demonstrated active involvement in community service programs.

“I was surprised,” Mason said when he found out he was selected as astate finalist.

Mason has been getting a lot of calls about playing on the next level. He’slooking at colleges that will give him a chance to play both football andbaseball. Southern Mississippi, Tulane, Mississippi State and a host of IvyLeague schools are among those taking a look at him.

His football coach at East St. John, Ronnie Stephens, is one who believesMason will make it.

“He’s a quality football player and a great kid,” Stephens said. “He’s one ofour senior leaders and he’s having a great season.”

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