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Oakton High School hires new head football coach

New staff wants to restore the team's old winning ways
Brian Slay was hired as Oakton new head football coach.

His climb to the top from an assistant to a head high-school football coach went fairly fast for Brian Slay – about six seasons.

Slay, 32, has been hired as the new head coach of the Oakton Cougars. He spent the last two seasons as an assistant for the McLean Highlanders, taking over the role as defensive coordinator this past season and coaching the offensive line the year before.

McLean head coach Joe Cockerham credit’s Slay as a big reason the Highlanders enjoyed its most successful season in years in 2023, finishing with 8-3 and earning the fourth seed in the 6D North Region tournament playoffs.

“Brian will do great there because he is always so well prepared with anything he does, the players love him because he can relate well and connect with them. We will have a hard time replacing him,” Cockerham said.

Oakton director of student activities Pat Full said Slay has already hit the ground running at Oakton, meeting with the players and hiring his coaching staff. Slay is a physical education teacher at McLean. He will join the Oakton faculty in the fall.

“If we do things the right way at Oakton, the team eventually can be successful,” Slay said. “We have to worry about ourselves there and work to get the players to buy into what we want to do. Oakton has won in the past and can do so again.”

Prior to coaching at McLean, Slay held assistant positions for the private school Flint Hill team, for Class 5 perennial public-school power Stone Bridge of Ashburn, where he graduated in 2009, and for a high-school team in North Carolina. He was on the Stone Bridge staff in 2017 when the team won a state championship.

Slay played and coached at Stone Bridge under current and longtime Bulldogs’ head coach Mickey Thompson. He was a defensive lineman at Stone Bridge, then the same in college at North Carolina State University for four seasons.

“I learned things at every stop I’ve had, playing or coaching, and I learned so much from Mickey,” Slay said. “It had long been in the back of my mind to become a head coach some day, but I wanted to become a full-time teacher first.”

Slay has reached out to former Oakton players who were on winning teams in years past to talk and share stories with the current players in coming weeks and months.

Oakton last had a winning season in 2012 when the Cougars finished 9-5 that year, won a region championship and earned a state playoff berth under then head coach Jason Rawley. Oakton won the Virginia High School League’s Class AAA state title in 2005.

“Brian knows his stuff,” Cockerham said. “McLean plays Oakton in two seasons so that will be fun.”

McLean had one shutout this past season and held four other opponents to nine points or fewer.

Slay replaces Mel Morgan. He coached the Cougars for five seasons, winning just 10 games, going 0-23 against district opponents and not earning a region playoff berth.

Oakton finished 1-9 overall this past season, losing its final seven contests after defeating the host  W.T. Woodson Cavaliers for its lone victory.