Oakton senior Matt Lewis didn't let the chanting crowd, the bitter cold or a strategic timeout called by Western Branch distract him. Facing a 27-yard field goal that would lift his team to its first state title game, he was a picture of calm and focus.
When the ball arrived at the tee, Lewis booted the biggest kick of his life, splitting the uprights to give No. 7 Oakton a 17-14 double-overtime victory over the previously undefeated Bruins in a Virginia AAA Division 6 semifinal, with most of the approximately 5,000 boisterous spectators roaring their approval in Vienna.
"Matt came into the game 8 of 11 on field goals this year, so I figured, 'What's the worst-case scenario? If we miss, we go back on defense,' " Oakton Coach Pete Bendorf said. "When I went into the huddle [during the timeout], the guys looked at me and gave me a look that said, 'Coach this is good.' . . . It was a great kick, but we also got another great defensive effort."
With the victory, Northern Region champion Oakton (10-3) continues its best season in school history by advancing to the final, where the Cougars will face No. 4 Hylton on Saturday at 12:30 at University of Richmond Stadium. Hylton defeated Thomas Dale, 22-8, in yesterday's other semifinal.
Oakton's defense turned in another dominant performance, shutting down one of the state's highest-scoring offenses and setting the stage for Lewis's game-winning kick by thwarting Western Branch on three straight passes to the end zone in the second overtime. For the game, the Cougars held the Bruins (12-1) to 69 yards rushing.
"I knew defense was the strength of their team," Western Branch Coach Lew Johnston said. "They didn't let us run wide, so we had to got to the passing game."
Western Branch had tied the game at 7 late in the fourth quarter, setting up the overtime. In high school overtime, teams alternate possession from the 10, and if one team leads at the end of a pair of possessions, it wins. Oakton got the ball first in the first overtime and scored on a one-yard sneak by senior quarterback Pat Day (16 carries for 32 yards). Lewis's extra point made it 14-7.
The Bruins scored on fourth down of their possession, when quarterback Ryan Pond rifled a pass to Vince Hall in the back of the end zone. The extra point forced a second overtime.
Western Branch started this time, losing five yards off the bat for an equipment violation. Pond threw incomplete on first down. On second down, linebacker Chad Grimm snuffed out a Bruins' reverse, backing them up to the 24. Pond threw incomplete on the next two passes, and Oakton went for the field goal on first down of its possession.
"They were trying to ice me" with the timeout said Lewis, who missed a 40-yard attempt in the first quarter. "I just went through my routine and just relaxed. I wasn't worried too much."
Oakton took a 7-0 lead into the game's final minutes thanks to a one-yard run by Danny Prentice with 9:42 remaining in the third quarter. But Western Branch put together its best drive, a six-play, 51-yard drive that culminated with a 19-yard touchdown reception by Lamonte Stanfield with 3 minutes 41 seconds left.
Both teams got dominant performances for their defenses in the first half, which ended scoreless.
Oakton's effort, led by Grimm, fellow linebackers Prentice and Dan Bauers and lineman Sloane Harris, limited the Bruins' high-powered attack to 23 yards rushing, 69 yards passing and three first downs in the first half. Western Branch never got past its own 48 and lost two fumbles.
Western Branch limited Oakton to 12 yards rushing, 16 yards passing in the first half, sacking Day three times.