HIGH SCHOOL PLAYOFFS - Position change for Mason has boosted Gilbert's offense
Filling the void at running back was only a matter of Gilbert head coach Chad Leaphart looking at his defense.
Senior Colton Mason played mostly outside linebacker last season for the Indians. However, he showed flashes of potential carrying the football as a scout team member.
“It was kind of a matter of necessity,” Leaphart said. “We graduated Ty Walker and DeAndre Cook who kind of split those duties. So, we were like ‘Who’s going to be our running back?”
Mason would answer definitively in joining Gray Collegiate Academy’s KZ Adams as the lone 1,000-yard plus rushers in Lexington County. His production (1,163 rushing yards, 14 TDs) is a primary reason why Gilbert posted a 2nd undefeated regular season and 3rd Region 5-3A title in school history.
“I really had to work hard and coach (Leaphart) has got me motivated and we’re doing a good job this year,” Mason said.
Friday night at Leonard Price Field, he and the Indians (6-0) will look to carry that season into a playoff run. They will open the post-season against Lake City (4-1).
“(Having) 1,000 rushing yards in 6 games is strong and we felt like he could do great things and he did,” Leaphart said. “You don’t ever know until you do it, so he’s done a great job. Our line has come on and done a great job blocking for him as well. And then, (quarterback) Izayah (Whiteside) has done a good job keeping people honest throwing the ball. He’s gotten better along the way here.
“All of it kind of works and fits together, but certainly we’ve been excited by what Colton’s done.”
Rushing for 314 yards against Brookland-Cayce was a major confidence boost for Mason.
“It really put a spark in me,” he said. “It was motivation and opened up my eyes up for what opportunities I have and what potential this team has.”
At 6-0, 208 pounds, Mason’s speed has often caught opponents by surprise for someone his size, according to Leaphart.
“He runs a 4.55 and so sometimes people see him as maybe he’s just a big running back and that kind of thing,” he said. “And then, next thing you know, he’ll get out from them and he’s gone. I think that’s probably the most deceptive thing about him, although we have had some people say that once they see him in person, ‘Coach, he looks a lot bigger in person than he did on film’. So a lot of good things.”
Gilbert looks to keep the good things going against a Panthers’ team in routed 45-6 in last year’s playoffs. A win will make Leaphart the 2nd winningest coach in Gilbert history behind Marty Woolbright (67).
The winner will face either top-ranked Dillon or Hanahan in the 2nd round.
“We are extremely determined,” Mason said. “We’re going to put everything we’ve got into this game. It’s senior year at Gilbert and we’re trying to win state.”