It wasn’t Jimmy Boone’s ability to read a defense or thread a tight spiral into a receiver that made Oakton head football coach Joe Thompson realize he had a potential star at the quarterback position. Thompson’s confirmation came when Boone responded to making a game-changing mistake during his junior season.
Boone took over as Oakton’s starting quarterback in 2009, replacing Temple-bound signal caller Chris Coyer. Boone won his first two starts for the defending Northern Region champion Cougars and was on his way to a third straight victory against T.C. Williams. Leading 9-7 with possession of the ball late in the fourth quarter, Oakton appeared in control. But that’s when Boone inexplicably lost a fumble, which the Titans returned for a game-winning touchdown.
While the mistake could have broken the confidence of a first-year starter, Thompson was pleased with how his quarterback responded.
"Most people wrote about that fumble, but the next week we played Annandale and Jimmy threw three touchdowns in the first quarter," Thompson said. "He’s a resilient kid. He put that whole [loss to T.C. Williams] on himself and he didn’t have to — but he did. He took it as a junior and he put it on himself and then he went out the next week and put us in a position to win that game.
"I thought that really showed me a lot about where he could go as a quarterback."
ONE YEAR LATER, Boone, a senior in his second season leading the Oakton offense, got another chance to face T.C. Williams. This time, instead of fumbling the game away, he passed the Cougars to victory.
Boone completed 6 of 12 passes for 101 yards and three touchdowns as Oakton improved to 3-0 with a 29-14 home victory over the Titans on Sept. 16. He threw a touchdown pass in each of the first three quarters and the Cougars led by double digits during the entire second half. Boone’s final touchdown toss, a 21-yard strike to Charley Dixon, gave Oakton a 26-7 lead with 2:20 remaining in the third quarter.
Boone said he was eager to avenge last season’s costly turnover against the Titans.
"I was thinking in my mind the whole week of practice: revenge," Boone said. "I had to get that revenge going. It was definitely the motivation for me to keep going full speed every single day this week. I was really excited to come out and see TC for the first time in a year."
Boone’s first touchdown pass of the night was the product of improvisation. Boone, facing third-and-6 on the Cougars’ 47-yard line, scrambled to his right and found Tuck Masker standing wide open near the Titans’ sideline. Masker then raced down the field, turning a sure first down into a 53-yard touchdown and a 10-0 first quarter lead.
"It was a broken-down play," Boone said. "My wide receiver, Tuck Masker, worked [to get open]. It was kind of like a Wes Welker-Tom Brady connection."
Boone’s second touchdown pass, a 9-yard screen to Luke Willis, gave the Cougars a 20-7 advantage heading into halftime.
THROUGH THREE GAMES, Boone has completed 18 of 36 passes for 277 yards and four touchdowns without being intercepted. He is also the team’s leading rusher with 216 yards and three touchdowns in 39 attempts.
"Obviously, I was a little uneasy last year," Boone said. "It was my first year starting [and] I was young. I did a lot of preparation over the offseason to get myself ready for this season. I feel I made a big stride and I’m ready to keep this season going."
"Jimmy is not surprising me," Thompson said. "He might be surprising others, but Jimmy has worked his tail off to be a really good quarterback — an elite-level quarterback — and he’s showing it every week out. He just keeps making plays."