Oakton safety Andrew Leonard didn’t see the fumble. The Cougars have defensive meetings on the sideline after every series and Leonard was occupied when the ball hit the turf. The senior was rendered speechless once he realized what happened.
Leading non-district opponent T.C. Williams 9-7 with less than two minutes remaining in the fourth quarter last Thursday, Oakton had possession of the ball and visions of running out the clock against the Titans.
But then the football, and a potential 3-0 start to the 2009 season, slipped from Oakton’s grasp.
Facing first-and-10 near midfield, Cougar quarterback Jimmy Boone was stripped of the football by T.C. Williams linebacker Damien Benton. Fellow linebacker Chelo Abbe scooped up the loose ball and scampered 50 yards for a touchdown and an improbable 15-9 Titans’ victory at Parker-Gray Stadium in Alexandria.
“I was stunned,” Leonard said. “I had no words to express it.”
Oakton (2-1) had two possessions after the Abbe touchdown, but each ended with a first-play interception by T.C. Williams (2-1).
“I was playing my position, the ball landed in my hands and I ran for a touchdown,” Abbe said of his fourth quarter touchdown. “In my mind, when I got the ball, I thought people were behind me, so I just ran as fast as I could.”
The Cougars were limited to 178 total yards of offense but, until the fumble, had done enough to put themselves in a position to win. Oakton scored the first nine points of the game and did not trail until late in the fourth quarter. But things went sour in a hurry for the Cougars, who turned the ball over on each of their final three plays of the contest.
We “needed to secure the ball at the end and we get out of there” with a win, Oakton coach Joe Thompson said. “We didn’t secure the ball and hopefully we learn from our experiences.”
The Oakton defense shined during the fourth quarter, twice intercepting T.C. Williams quarterback John Bray. After the Titans took the lead and intercepted a Boone pass, the Oakton defense forced a three-and-out to give the Cougars one final chance.
Sean Schnitzer and Akil Jones intercepted passes for Oakton.
<b>OAKTON TOOK</b> a 6-0 lead with 10 minutes, 34 seconds remaining in the second quarter when running back Mike Greene sliced through the middle of the Titans’ defense for a 23-yard touchdown. The point after attempt failed due in part to a miscue on the snap.
The Cougars went ahead 9-0 when Ray Goins drilled a 42-yard field goal attempt with 2:43 left in the first half.
T.C. Williams responded with its lone offensive touchdown of the contest five plays later. Robert Carter, part of a three-player quarterback rotation for the Titans, avoided pressure and scrambled for a nine-yard score, cutting the Cougar lead to 9-7 before halftime.
Both teams missed second-half field goal attempts.
Boone completed 9-of-21 pass attempts for 73 yards. Greene and Luke Willis each rushed for 48 yards and Goins led the Cougars with 46 receiving yards.
Oakton travels to Annandale on Friday to take on the Atoms at 7:30 p.m. Thompson said the Cougars need to get back to work.
“There are no positives for losing,” the coach said.
Leonard said the Cougars, a Group AAA, District 6 state semifinalist last season, will take something from the loss.
“We’re a young team,” Leonard said. “The first two games [of the season] were just all of us working hard, trying to be the 2008 team. It’s just learning that we’re not as good as them and we just need to work as hard as them or even harder. … I think we’re going to use this as motivation to propel us through the season.”