It’s hard for most Oakton players to explain the happenings of the past month, as the Cougars have turned a four-game losing streak into a Virginia AAA Northern Region Division 6 championship after downing top-seeded Westfield, 23-16, on Saturday.
Some call it momentum while others say the potential was always there. As for senior Andy Boone, he noticed a positive change as soon as the postseason began.
It was then that the Cougars found out they would face Lake Braddock, the same team that routed them 50-21 in last year’s first round.
“That amped us up a whole lot because we knew the feeling from losing last year to them,” Boone said. “So we took on the idea of being a ‘revenge team,’ and we figured if we could get one win under our belt, we could maybe do something special.”
After that victory, Oakton settled another score, beating Centreville, 14-13, in the semifinals to avenge a loss to the Wildcats in the regular season. That set up Saturday’s battle against Westfield, leading Cougars Coach Jason Rowley to motivate his team with a NFL analogy.
“He said the 6-4 Oakton Cougars, which was our regular-season record, could now be like the 9-7 New York Giants of last year,” said Boone, who caught two touchdowns on Saturday. “We really took that to heart and believed we could win this game.”
Behind a defense that forced three turnovers and an offense that scored three touchdowns and a field goal in four trips to the red zone, Oakton won its first region title since 2008, setting up a home game against L.C. Bird in Saturday’s Division 6 semifinals.
In winning its first Virginia AAA Northwest Region Division 6 title since 2005, No. 9 Hylton had to knock off two teams it already had beaten during the regular season — three-time defending region champion Battlefield in the semifinals, and Colonial Forge in the final.
“It’s tough when you play an opponent twice,” said Hylton Coach Tony Lilly, whose team had beaten Stafford County school Colonial Forge, 35-16, on Oct. 12 and topped the Eagles again, 23-13, on Friday night. “There are different emotional things that go into that with both teams.
“My emphasis all week was making sure our kids recognize that this was a big game, that we can’t be satisfied with the win last week against Battlefield and then come out and lay an egg.”
Hylton junior Terrin Allen-Neal has 27 catches this season, 10 of them in the two playoff games for 201 yards and a touchdown each game. Senior Garrett Wooding, who had three rushes in the first 11 games, had four carries for 40 yards against Colonial Forge.
Senior Josh Ronan-Redfearn posted his first 100-yard rushing game since that Oct. 12 outing against Colonial Forge and scored his first touchdown since that game, despite having 78 carries in between the two outings against the Eagles.
Ronan-Redfearn scored on an 81-yard run in the first half Friday, validating the speed training he had been doing. He had a 74-yard touchdown run against Gar-Field this season.
“He really ran the ball smart” on the run Friday, Lilly said. “He chose the right moments to cut, which really kind of kept the distance on the defender.”
Hylton senior linebacker E.J. Levenberry led the Bulldogs with 12 tackles. Junior defensive back Lawrence Hunt had nine stops and an interception, his seventh of the season. Wooding and senior defensive lineman Chasz Wright had seven tackles each.
The Bulldogs travel to Virginia Beach to face Eastern Region champion Ocean Lakes (13-0) in Saturday’s Division 6 semifinals.
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