Two area high school football teams to keep a close eye on in first round Northern Region playoff games this Friday night are South Lakes and Oakton.
The two teams are from different districts and different division categories, but both have explosive offenses which could overcome any other shortcomings.
South Lakes, a member of the Liberty District, will host Mount Vernon of the National District in a quarterfinals round game of the Div. 5 (smaller enrollment schools) playoffs. The Seahawks, under head coach Andy Hill, are the No. 4 seed of the eight-team playoffs, while Mount Vernon is the No. 5 seed. Opening kickoff is 7:30 on Friday night.
The Seahawks closed the regular season with a 49-13 district home loss to unbeaten and Div. 5 top seed Stone Bridge, the defending region champion. A week prior to that, South Lakes won a high-scoring 42-36 game at district foe Langley.
South Lakes sophomore quarterback Rashaan Jones, who was 19-of-24 for 279 yards with two touchdowns in the win over the Saxons, has gotten better and better throughout the season. He is both a throwing and running threat and part of the Seahawks' big play personnel on offense, which also includes senior all-purpose player Darius Smith, a standout receiver as well as defensive back. Smith is also one of the region's top special teams return men. Receiver Sean Price, another big play threat, caught six passes for 124 yards and a pair of TDs while also running for a score in the win against Langley.
South Lakes averaged over 27 points per game during the regular season. The team's losses came to district opponents McLean, 14-7; Fairfax, 24-12; and Stone Bridge. The lone win over a winning opponent was the victory over Langley.
Mount Vernon was 5-5 during the season and 5-2 in district play. The Majors suffered early season lopsided losses to local Alexandria area foes West Potomac, 55-20, and T.C. Williams, 45-14. They also lost badly to talented Centreville, 35-7. The team's best win of the season was likely against district rival and Div. 5 playoff team Washington-Lee (5-5), by a 37-20 score. The Majors have put up 19 points per game and given up 25 per contest.
<b>OAKTON (7-3)</b>, in a Div. 6 first round playoff game, will travel to Robinson (8-2) this Friday night. Both teams reside in the powerful Concorde District, which was won by Robinson (4-1 district mark).
The two district rivals met just two weeks ago in a week nine game at Oakton - a contest won by the Rams, 21-14. Oakton did a good job that night holding down Robinson star running back Jared Velasquez to 58 yards on 19 carries. However, Velasquez returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown that night.
"Playing Robinson for the second time in a three week span will be difficult," said Oakton head coach Joe Thompson. "They are the district champs and should be considered front runners for the regional championship. Velasquez is an outstanding football player at any position on the field. You must know where he is at all times. Slowing him down requires a true team approach, as he is a weapon on offense, defense, and special teams."
Robinson, which lost in a week 2 upset to Fairfax, 20-12, and also fell in a week 6 game to district opponent Chantilly, 24-14, carries a four-game win streak into the playoffs, including a 27-0 shutout victory over district rival Centreville last Friday night, in the regular season finale.
Oakton also enters the playoffs with some good momentum following a week 10 district home win over Chantilly, 17-14. Oakton junior kicker Eric Goins booted a 42-yard field goal in the fourth quarter to break a 14-14 tie which proved to be the game-winner over the Chargers (8-2). Oakton senior running back Luke Willis rushed for 135 yards in the win, including a 51-yard touchdown run. Cougars' QB Jimmy Boone, one of the better running quarterbacks in the region, also ran for a score in the win. Boone has passed for 1,073 yards (with 11 TDs) and rushed for 598 this season.
"The win versus Chantilly was a great boost for the team," said Thompson. "We've played a lot of close games in the past month, and felt like we really needed to win a close one to get over the hump. Chantilly is a very good team, with great coaching and playmakers at all positions. Getting a win over them is always nice."
Another Key win over a high-powered opponent this season for Oakton came over district rival and Div. 6 playoff team Westfield, 21-14.
The Cougars won their first five games of the season before losing three of the next four. One of the losses came at then-unbeaten Centreville, 30-16, in a week eight district meeting.
Oakton is going to have to play a solid overall game to beat the Rams on Friday.
"To beat a team like Robinson, we need to play mistake-free in all phases of the game," said Thompson. "Their defense is well coached and deep with experience, so scoring opportunities are limited and can't be wasted. Their offense is explosive in the run game and complemented with an accurate passing game, so we will have to be prepared to defend the whole field and not over commit to any one formation or player."
Robinson, under head coach Mark Bendorf, is a fundamentally sound team on offense, defense and special teams as well.
"They really don't make mistakes in the kicking game, so field position will be a battle and we will have to match their execution," said Thompson. "They have an outstanding coaching staff, and tradition. We will be playing on their field and should have our work cut out for us. We are playing with more confidence than earlier in the season, and we have some players that have developed into real threats on both sides of the ball. I think we'll be ready to play."