Oakton 17, Centreville 14

After Oakton lost a pair of fumbles in the second half last night -- both of which led directly to Centreville scores -- it appeared the Cougars might be done in by their costly miscues. But as it turned out, it was a fumble by the No. 20 Wildcats that decided the game.

Senior safety Matt Butler pounced on a fumble that was jarred loose by Cougars linebacker Cody Grimm on Centreville's first play from scrimmage in overtime, sealing Oakton's 17-14 victory and bolstering the Cougars' playoff hopes.

The recovered fumble was a measure of redemption for Butler, whose fumble on a kickoff return early in the third quarter helped spark the Wildcats' comeback from a 14-0 halftime deficit in a key AAA Concorde District game played on a sloppy field at Centreville. The loss dealt the Wildcats' playoff aspirations a serious blow.

"I basically had to put the fumble out of my mind," Butler said. "This win was the deciding point of our season. . . . Cody did a great job punching the ball out, and I just jumped on it."

Oakton place kicker Donald Murphy booted a 20-yard field goal on Oakton's first possession of overtime to provide the winning margin. The Cougars, who also got 66 yards on 19 carries from running back Keith Payne, improved to 6-1, 2-0 Concorde; Centreville fell to 4-3, 0-2.

"I feel incredible right now," Murphy said. "It's always huge beating Centreville. But this was even bigger than normal. Now we're in control of our own destiny."

It was a critical game for both teams because each may need to win the district to get into the next month's four-team Division 6 Northern Region playoff. District champions gain an automatic bid. Oakton, which is attempting to make the playoffs for the first time since advancing to the state final in 2002, will travel to undefeated Westfield next week for the Bulldogs' homecoming.

"Who knows what this did for the playoff picture," Oakton Coach Joe Thompson said. "We've got two more district games and we're going to try to win them both."

Oakton rode the steady leadership of quarterback Reid Teschner and a sparkling performance by its defense to a 14-0 halftime lead. But Butler's fumble on the opening kickoff of the second half led to a Wildcats score (Drew Dudzik tossed a 42-yard pass to Cameron Dohse) and a second Oakton fumble six minutes later allowed Dudzik to complete another touchdown pass, this time to Robbie Humphreys, to tie it at 14. Then, Centreville's Cortez Brown blocked a field goal attempt with two minutes remaining to force overtime.

"It feels great to hold on after a big letdown," Teschner said. "They way we bounced back from those turnovers to pull out this win, it shows the kind of character we have on this team."