Oakton 24, Westfield 20
Oakton junior Keith Payne wasn't the running back everyone was talking about at the start of the game. But he was certainly the topic of conversation at the end.
Payne scored twice in the third quarter -- setting up one score with a spectacular catch -- and Cougars defensive standouts Donald Murphy and Cody Grimm each picked off passes in the final minutes to help No. 20 Oakton shock fourth-ranked Westfield, 24-20, in front of a homecoming crowd of about 6,000 in Chantilly.
With the victory, Oakton (7-1, 3-0) seized control of the AAA Concorde District. The Cougars also snapped the defending Division 6 state champion Bulldogs' 21-game winning streak and held Westfield running back Evan Royster to 31 yards rushing in the second half after he gained 150 in the first.
"This means so much to us," said Payne, who also gained a key first down late to help Oakton run crucial time off the clock. "A lot of people get caught up in how many yards you get. But I focus on making the big plays. And tonight, I did that."
Early in the third quarter, with Westfield leading 14-10, the Bulldogs' punter dropped a snap and fell on the ball at his 17-yard line. Moments later, Payne scored from three yards to give Oakton a 17-14 lead.
"We got a ton of turnovers tonight, and that turned the game for us," Oakton Coach Joe Thompson said.
About four minutes later, the 6-foot-3, 194-pound Payne hauled in a perfect pass from quarterback Reid Teschner and took it 43 yards to the Westfield 27-yard line. Payne (51 yards rushing on 10 carries and 45 yards receiving) capped the drive with an 18-yard sweep for a score that gave Oakton a 24-14 edge with 2:11 left in the third.
But a resurgent Royster, the region's leading rusher, marched the Bulldogs right back down the field. The junior scored from two yards to pull the Bulldogs (7-1, 2-1) to within 24-20 midway through the fourth quarter. Westfield still got the ball back twice, but the Bulldogs' quarterback was picked off twice in the final 2:52, the last one by Grimm with less than a minute remaining to seal the win.
"Our defense really stepped up for us tonight," Grimm said. "This is huge. It's great because it shows that we can go head-to-head with the best and beat them. We were the last team to beat them [in 2002]. I just kept thinking back to that game."
Westfield's control of the game actually began slipping in the first half. After Royster scored on a 78-yard run to give the Bulldogs a 14-3 lead with 5:27 remaining before halftime, a costly fumble by Royster set up Oakton on the Westfield 21-yard line with 36 seconds left.
Moments later, Teschner connected with Brandon Smith for an eight-yard touchdown play, sending the Cougars into halftime trailing 14-10.
Said Westfield Coach Tom Verbanic: "In a game like that, you can't make the mistakes we made and expect to beat a team like Oakton. They made some adjustments at halftime and we lost our focus and our poise."