Wednesday, October 24, 2007


At Oakton, Sharing the Ball Works for the Players -- and on the Scoreboard
Tuesday, October 23, 2007; E08

When Oakton won the AAA state title in 2005, running back Keith Payne (University of Virginia) and fullback Taylor Naleppa combined for 2,925 yards rushing and 35 total touchdowns. "If you stopped Keith or Taylor, you stopped us," Oakton Coach Joe Thompson said.

This season, Thompson has spread the ball among 10 runners and two quarterbacks to help the Cougars overcome an 0-2 start -- the team's worst since 1994.

Oakton (5-3, 3-1 Concorde District) has won five of its last six games, including pivotal back-to-back conference victories over Centreville (5-3, 2-2) and Robinson (4-4, 1-3) that has the team looking for its sixth playoff berth in seven seasons. Six rushers have scored a touchdown for Oakton, which is averaging 28.3 points per game in its last six games.

"Once these guys started to find their roles and realized that, by sharing the ball, we could get a lot accomplished -- I think they've taken to it," Thompson said.

In Saturday's 40-14 win over Robinson, Oakton used nine rushers, and the team's quarterbacks, juniors Ryan Harris and Chris Coyer, completed passes to nine receivers for a combined total of 120 yards and two touchdowns.

-- B.J. Koubaroulis

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