Oakton 11, Langley 6

With a comfortable lead late in yesterday's Virginia AAA Northern Region boys' lacrosse final against Langley at W.T. Woodson High, Oakton began a game of keepaway.

For the final 1 minute 40 seconds, the Cougars' offense swiftly worked the ball around Langley's goal, bleeding time off the clock as the Saxons tried in vain to cause a turnover.

It was an appropriate ending to Oakton's 11-6 victory. For the last three seasons, no opponent has been able to catch the Cougars in the Northern Region tournament.

Eighth-ranked Oakton (13-4) became the first school to win three consecutive Northern Region championships and strengthened its claim as the top Virginia public school in the area.

Since Tony Gray took over Oakton's program in 2001, the Cougars are 74-12.

"This is what we wanted," senior attackman Scott Hoefer said. "This is how we wanted to finish it."

The Cougars aren't finished quite yet. On Saturday, Oakton will face Albemarle in an attempt to win its third consecutive unofficial state championship, and Hoefer and his 15 senior teammates will try to complete an astounding three-year run.

Oakton will face Albemarle in the unofficial title game.

During the last three seasons, Oakton is 47-7, and just one of those losses came against a Northern Region opponent -- on May 6 to Westfield, 9-8. But that loss, which the Cougars avenged in the Concorde District final, helped them refocus.

"I think we kind of needed that for a self-check because our heads might have gotten a little big," Oakton junior defenseman Keith Payne said. "Now we know there are teams that can beat us, so we have to play to our abilities."

Oakton did that yesterday. The defense, led by junior goalkeeper Mark Davis (16 saves) and close defenders Pat O'Keefe, Kevin Mitchell and Payne, held the seventh-ranked Saxons' potent offense, which entered the game averaging 12.6 goals per game, in check.

Hoefer had two goals and three assists, senior Cody Grimm had three goals and an assist, junior Donald Murphy had three goals and senior Matt Silton had two goals and an assist.

Langley (15-3), in the region final for the first time since 1998, got three goals from junior Robbie Maclay and two goals and an assist from senior Seth Blaustein.

The Saxons had lost three straight region finals from 1990 to '92, including a 7-6 loss to Oakton in overtime in 1992.

The Cougars also had beaten Langley in the region quarterfinals last year, 13-10.

With the game tied at two late in the first quarter yesterday, Grimm scored a pair of goals to give the Cougars a lead they would not relinquish. And late in the second quarter, Oakton scored twice in 34 seconds -- the first coming short-handed -- to forge a 6-2 cushion at the half.

"They're just a machine when they're on," Langley Coach Earl Brewer said. "You really can't let down at any time. And in the second quarter there we had a little lapse, and they got that four-goal buffer, and then we had to fight uphill the rest of the way. You can't do that against them."

Oakton goalkeeper Mark Davis kept pretty much everything in front of him, including this shot by Langley's Seth Blaustein, in his team's 11-6 win.