Ben Mason, who terrorized opposing offenses for four years as a starting linebacker at Newtown, has been named the Gatorade State Player of the Year for 2016.
Mason, a 6-foot-3, 245-pound linebacker and fullback who is a two-time New Haven Register first-team all-state and Walter Camp All-Connecticut player, made 353 total tackles during his illustrious career, including 232 solo and 121 assists and 23 for a loss.
Mason also had 11 sacks and had five interceptions for touchdowns, which ties a state record held by Bobby Valentine (Rippowam) and Phil Pope (Simsbury) for the most in a career. Mason also made three fumble recoveries.
He also became a featured player on offense, with 1,913 total yards and 18 touchdowns. Newtown lost just five games while Mason was in uniform, won the South-West Conference three out of five seasons and reached the state playoffs in four-consecutive seasons.
“Ben’s stature alone makes him an imposing run defender, and his speed makes running away from his side of the field almost impossible,” Pomperaug coach James Reed said in a press release from Gatorade. “A player of Ben’s caliber raises the level of the entire defense.”
This season, Mason rushed for 719 yards and 11 touchdowns as the Nighthawks went 10-0 and reached the Class LL state quarterfinals. He also caught 15 passes for 188 yards and three scores.
On defense, Mason recorded 63 tackles and two interceptions and forced two fumbles. Newtown allowed just 10.4 points per game and posted four shutouts to reclaim the SWC Championship.
With starting back Hunter Cobb out of the game, Mason helped rally the Nighthawks to a 35-28 victory over Masuk on Thanksgiving Eve. He scored the winning touchdown with just a minute left.
It turned out to be Mason’s last. At some point he’d torn the meniscus in his right knee and missed the team’s state quarterfinal game vs. Shelton. Newtown lost 55-21.
“He had a really nice senior year,” his father, Bob Mason said. “It’s too bad it ended the way it did. He had surgery the Monday after and in a few weeks it’ll be good as new. Thank God it was only the meniscus. The funny part is we think it might have happened in the New Milford game five weeks earlier. But he kept pushing through it, pushing through it.
“When we got the MRI, the doctor finally said there’s no way you can play. So it wasn’t our choice, which made it a little easier, I guess. But he wanted to be out there with his teammates, so he dressed and went out for the coin toss with them.”
Off the field, Mason has maintained a weighted 3.78 GPA in the classroom. He is a peer Latin tutor, a youth football coach and is a volunteer to help raise money for cancer research.
Mason has verbally committed to play football on an athletic scholarship at the University of Michigan. He is scheduled to graduate this month and begin at Michigan after the new year.
“He’s always been a pretty organized kid,” Bob Mason said. “He’ll be graduating December 23. He’s going to Michigan with AP credits. He’s been a pretty planned-out kid which has helped him be successful. Also, he had an injury in eighth grade which made him really get into physical therapy and helped him dedicate himself to working out.”