Oakton 16, Albemarle 10

The result was never in doubt for Oakton yesterday, but that didn't stop the Cougars from playing with a sense of urgency. After all, this unofficial state championship game was a contest that had been on the players' minds since before their first game of the season.

Junior Donald Murphy scored five goals, and seniors Matt Silton and Bobby Fitton scored four apiece as Oakton defeated Albemarle, 16-10, at W.T. Woodson to claim its third straight state title.

Since Coach Tony Gray took over in 2001, the Cougars are 75-12 and 48-7 over the past three seasons.

"In our first meeting that was the first thing we talked about -- what was going to be our challenge this year," Gray said. "The first thing the kids said is they wanted to be the first team to win three in a row."

The eighth-ranked Cougars (14-4) had beaten Albemarle in each of their previous two final appearances and no Northern Region team had ever lost in the state title game. But with 16 seniors looking to close out their careers in historic fashion, complacency never became an issue.

"Since we've been here before, we know how to stay focused and we know how to stay calm," Fitton said.

Albemarle didn't have an answer for the Cougars' balanced attack. Oakton, which hasn't trailed since the start of the region playoffs, jumped to a 7-1 lead at the end of the first quarter and never looked back. Murphy was omnipresent early on, scoring all five of his goals before halftime and helping the Cougars to an 11-2 lead.

"We've always had a tendency to come out sluggish -- to have to come from behind -- so we wanted to beat them early," said senior Scott Hoefer, who scored two goals and had a team-high four assists. "We've done pretty well with that in the playoffs."

Having faced a rather brutal out-of-region schedule, it was apparent throughout the postseason that the Cougars were well prepared for another title run. Three of Oakton's four losses this season came to top private school teams -- No. 1 Georgetown Prep, No. 2 Landon and No. 3 DeMatha.

"Those private schools showed that any time you let down against them they can hurt you," Gray said. "I think my team's really learned from playing those private schools. That's a formula I'm going to continue to use -- to play the best -- so that no matter who we're playing, it's business as usual."

Oakton goalie Mark Davis makes a save on a shot by Albemarle's Stephen Murray. The No. 8 Cougars have beaten Albemarle in the final three straight times.