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Oakton’s stirring run through the postseason came to a screeching halt last Saturday in a 41-17 loss against L.C. Bird in the Virginia AAA Division 6 semifinal. The loss denied the Cougars a trip to Charlottesville this Saturday to take on Eastern Region champion Ocean Lakes in the state championship.

Oakton (9-5) entered last weekend’s home game carrying plenty of momentum, having upended three higher seeds to claim its first Northern Region crown since 2008. But the Cougars were no match for a fired-up L.C. Bird (14-0) squad that displayed zero mercy to their humble hosts from start to finish. The Central Region champions ran all over the Oakton defense, compiling 580 rushing yards to go with junior quarterback Terrance Ervin’s 117 yards passing on three completions.

L.C. Bird senior running back Paul Robertson entered Saturday’s contest having totaled 539 rushing yards and four touchdowns in his previous two games, including a monster 329-yard performance in the Central Region championship against Varina that set a school record for single-game rushing yards. Against Oakton, Robertson somehow managed to make that effort look like a meek stroll through the park, as he piled up an obscene 421 yards and five touchdowns on 32 carries.

“He’s a really tough back to tackle,” said Oakton quarterback Kyle Downer, who played as a free safety in addition to his signal-calling duties. “They do a really good job up front making holes for him, and he really hits them hard and gets upfield.”

Robertson found the end zone three times during a brutal second quarter that saw Oakton get outscored 27-7. Entering halftime with a decisive 34-10 lead, the Skyhawks pounded their chests and hopped toward the locker room with unwavering swagger while Oakton players seemed to be licking their wounds and checking for missing limbs.

Saturday’s drubbing may have been difficult to swallow, but at least the Cougars can look back on a season that saw them respond to four consecutive losses with an inspired run to the Northern Region title.

“I couldn’t be any prouder of this group,” Oakton coach Jason Rowley said. “They’ve put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears for this program, and they should have nothing but pride when they walk out of here tonight. ... They did things that no one in this region thought they’d be able to do. That credit goes entirely to the assistant coaches on this staff and to the seniors. Without that senior class, without the drive and determination that they had, we wouldn’t have been where we were today. I’m blessed to have them as a group of kids.”

After breezing through the first leg of its season with a 6-0 record, Oakton stumbled to the finish line with four straight losses to close the regular season. They barely managed to qualify for the playoffs, receiving a seventh seed in the eight-team field and a first-round date with Lake Braddock, a team coming off seven double-digit wins in a row.

Oakton ended the Bruins’ season with a 20-13 win, setting up a showdown with a Centreville team that had beaten them 49-28 two weeks earlier. The Cougars handed Centreville its first home loss of the year, thanks in large part to Downer’s last second leap into the end zone that catapulted his team to a dramatic 14-13 victory and a trip to Westfield for the region final. Against the undefeated Bulldogs, Oakton jumped out to a 16-point lead and never looked back, grabbing a 23-16 win that handed them their sixth region crown in 15 years.

The team’s senior class took special joy from the playoff run, since they had never previously beaten any of those three teams during their time at Oakton.

“I really loved every moment of playing here,” Downer said. “These guys are my brothers. I’m going to miss it.”

Stone Bridge returns to state final

Stone Bridge defeated Hanover, 28-21, last Saturday in the Virginia AAA Division 5 semifinal to qualify for its third state final appearance in the last four years, its fifth since 2005.

Junior fullback Sterling Dailey led the Bulldogs with 125 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries. Senior quarterback Ryan Burns totaled just eight pass attempts, choosing to beat the Hawks with his legs. The Stanford commit took off running 14 times for 79 yards; his 12 second-half rushes were more than he totaled during the entire regular season. Stone Bridge (14-0) finished the game with 31 consecutive run plays in a second half that saw each team get use just three possessions.

For the first time since 2007, when Stone Bridge won its lone state championship, the Bulldogs will not enter the state final facing Phoebus, which fell to Lake Taylor, 54-0, in the Easter Region final. Lake Taylor (14-0) edged North Stafford, 23-21, to qualify for its first state title appearance since 1982. The two teams will square off at 12 p.m. Saturday at Scott Stadium in Charlottesville.

neilerson@fairfaxtimes.com