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Oakton’s Kyle Downer steps in on defense; Westfield’s Dalaun Richardson draws attention

By Brandon Parker,

While the rest of his classmates were enjoying a day off from school last Monday, Oakton’s Kyle Downer was meeting with coaches, furiously studying film and coverages. The Cougars’ four-game losing streak had something to do with Downer’s urgency, but even more paramount was the fact that the senior quarterback was being tasked to play defense for Oakton’s Virginia AAA Northern Region Division 6 first-round playoff game against Lake Braddock.

“That was the first time in my entire life that I had played defense, so I wanted to do all I could to be prepared,” Downer said. “Tuesday’s practice was tough but by Thursday and Friday, I felt like I had caught on enough.”

Downer’s athleticism on both sides of the ball paid dividends for the Cougars (7-4), who snapped their string of losses with a 20-13 upset of the Bruins. The senior quarterback rushed for 151 yards and three touchdowns while aiding the team’s pass coverage as a defensive back against talented Lake Braddock quarterback Caleb Henderson. The Bruins’ 13 points marked the lowest total allowed by Oakton since October 5, which also was the last time the Cougars had won a game.

“We really refocused our attitude and moved some guys around to help rejuvenate our defense because we had struggled some in that phase of the game recently,” said Oakton Coach Jason Rowley, who also shifted running back Mike Wandey to linebacker.

Oakton’s win also marked its first playoff victory since 2008, setting up a rematch with Centreville, which defeated the Cougars, 49-28, two weeks ago in the regular-season finale. . . .

Westfield’s Richardson gets recognized

When Dalaun Richardson strolled into Wal-Mart this past weekend, he received quite the reaction.

“I walked in and some guy said, ‘Look, it’s the Westfield running back, Dalaun Richardson,’ and then all these people started clapping” the senior recalled. “I was pretty surprised because I didn’t think people noticed me or my teammates like that.”

Granted, Richardson and the Bulldogs have done plenty to make people take notice this season. Last week’s 49-7 win against West Springfield in the first round of the Virginia AAA Northern Region Division 6 playoffs pushed Westfield’s record to 11-0 and marked the seventh time this season that the Bulldogs have scored 40 or more points.

As expected, though, the road gets tougher this week with rival Chantilly on tap for the semifinal round. The Chargers are the last team to hold a fourth-quarter lead against Westfield, which eventually rallied back on the road for a 24-21 victory in the sixth game of the season.

“Knowing how the last game went, we just have to stay focused and never give up,” Richardson said. “If we miss a play, we have to come together as a team and come back stronger because there’s no tomorrow in the playoffs.”. . .

Stone Bridge is rolling

Just when it seemed Stone Bridge (11-0) couldn’t play any more dominant this season, the Bulldogs went out and posted a season-high 69 points against Edison in the first round of the Virginia AAA Northern Region Division 5 playoffs. Senior quarterback Ryan Burns had a career night, tossing six touchdown passes to go with 309 yards through the air.

Meantime, Sterling Dailey continued his recent impressive play, rushing for 127 yards while being fueled by the disappointment of last season’s loss to South County in the Division 5 title game.

“We remember how we felt after that loss and we know we don’t want that feeling again,” said Dailey, who has rushed for at least 100 yards in four straight games. “The defense has always been playing well all year but on offense, I think we’ve been playing with more confidence.”

Next up for the Bulldogs is Langley, which held off Hayfield, 21-14, to win its first playoff game in 12 years. Stone Bridge had its way against the Saxons in a 27-6 victory earlier this season, but Dailey said that means little come the postseason. The Bulldogs will need to slow down Langley’s own speedy playmaker in tailback Philip Mun (1,703 rushing yards and 18 scores).

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