Burke The Oakton football team didn’t take long to show it wasn’t a typical underdog.
After stopping Lake Braddock on fourth down during the opening possession of Friday’s Division 6 Northern Region quarterfinal, Oakton faced second-and-10 at its own 30.
Quarterback Kyle Downer took the snap, kept the ball on an option play and raced 70 yards into the end zone, giving the Cougars an early lead.
Oakton entered the postseason as the region’s No. 7 seed in the Division 6 playoffs. While the Cougars were an underdog from a seeding standpoint against No. 2 Lake Braddock, Oakton proved plenty problematic for the Patriot District champion Bruins.
DOWNER RUSHED 17 TIMES for 152 yards and three touchdowns and Oakton defeated Lake Braddock, 20-13, on Nov. 9 at Lake Braddock Secondary School. The Cougars led, 14-13, when Downer scored on a 3-yard sneak with 2:25 remaining in the fourth quarter, extending the lead to seven. Lake Braddock drove to the Oakton 45-yard line during its ensuing possession, but four straight incomplete passes gave the ball back to the Cougars, who ran out the clock.
With the victory, Oakton advanced to the region semifinals. The Cougars will travel to face No. 3 Centreville at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 16.
Oakton started the year 6-0, but lost its final four regular season games to finish fifth in the six-team, traditionally-tough Concorde District. That didn’t stop the Cougars from beating a Lake Braddock team that went 8-2 during the regular season, including 7-0 in the Patriot District. The Bruins’ two defeats entering Friday’s contest came against Concorde foes Centreville and Westfield.
“It feels great, especially coming off the four-game losing streak,” Downer said. “Not a lot of people believed in us but we believed in ourselves. We knew that we could do it all along and we came out and we put a pretty good game together.”
Downer’s second touchdown, a 6-yard run early in the second quarter, gave Oakton a 14-7 lead it would not relinquish. The senior signal caller completed 7 of 16 passes for 94 yards.
“We didn’t just believe we were going to win this game, we knew we were going to win this game and that was our mindset going in.”
--- Oakton football coach Jason Rowley
THE COUGARS totaled 347 yards of offense, including 253 on the ground. Kelly Brooks-Muse carried 10 times for 60 yards, Mike Wandey rushed nine times for 34 yards and Andy Boone carried four times for seven yards.
“We were just running on them,” Oakton left tackle Chris Durant said. “They couldn’t stop us.”
While the Oakton offense was piling up rushing yards, the defense limited Lake Braddock to 256 yards a season-low 13 points.
Trailing 14-7, the Bruins scored on a 13-yard run by Aaron Hollins with 4:17 remaining in the third quarter. Lake Braddock lined up for the tying extra point, but Oakton jumped offside. With the ball moved closer to the goal line, the Bruins offense came onto the field for a two-point try, but the attempt failed, leaving Oakton with a 14-13 lead. The Bruins wouldn’t score another point.
“We didn’t just believe we were going to win this game, we knew we were going to win this game and that was our mindset going in,” Oakton head coach Jason Rowley said. “We felt like we’ve given some things away earlier this year, we turned the ball over a lot earlier this year in bad situations and we didn’t play great defense earlier this year.
“… [Beating the Bruins] was a total team effort. I think you saw our defense out there, they were ball-hawking. They were getting to the ball. That’s the thing you have to do against a great offense like Lake Braddock. They’ve got an outstanding quarterback (Caleb Henderson), one of the best in the nation and our guys were up to the challenge in wanting to take that challenge on.”
Five teams from the Concorde District qualified for the playoffs and four advanced to the region semifinals: No. 1 Westfield, No. 3 Centreville, No. 4 Chantilly and Oakton. The Cougars faced Centreville in the regular season finale on Nov. 2 and lost, 49-28. The two will meet again Friday in the semifinals.