There probably isn't anyone outside Westfield more familiar with the Bulldogs' football team than Oakton senior Keith Payne.
Payne, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound Virginia recruit and all-Concorde District running back, goes to church on Sundays with Westfield star wide receiver Donte Davis, and the pair often watch NFL games on television together. This past Saturday, Payne hung out at Virginia's football game with Westfield All-Met running back Evan Royster, another of Payne's closest friends.
Despite the tight relationships, Payne can't wait to outdo the pair in Saturday's AAA Division 6 Northern Region championship game.
"It's time to show everyone who's better," Payne said.
Although Royster, who averages close to 10 yards a carries, has more impressive stats this season, few players could make that claim as well as Payne. He has recorded 1,460 yards and 16 touchdowns on 195 carries this season, despite splitting touches with senior fullback Taylor Naleppa (797 yards on 115 carries).
Payne also plays the role of Royster on the scout team to help the Oakton defense prepare for Westfield. He also, of course, practices with the first-team offense and takes snaps on defense as a linebacker.
"If I score, I tell them, 'That's seven. That's just seven [Royster] put on you,' " Payne said, laughing. "I'm trying to get them [ticked] off."
Oakton Coach Joe Thompson said that Payne's boundless energy is noticeable.
"He's a high energy kind of kid," Thompson said. "The fact of the matter is that he'll come to practice and come to games with his tremendous motor running all the time. If he's out of the game or if he's injured, there's a different feel on the field."
The Cougars have defeated Westfield three times in the past four years, but the Bulldogs beat Oakton, 31-13, in October, holding Payne to 92 rushing yards. Meanwhile, his friend Royster broke free for 256 yards. Payne called that experience an "embarrassment."
"They came out in the third and fourth quarter and just took it to us," Payne said. "This time, we're a lot more prepared."