2015 ETSN.fm East Texas Football Super Team Offensive Newcomer of the Year: Dylan Harkrider, Waskom
Six weeks ago, the Waskom Wildcats walked out of Houston's NRG Stadium state champions of Class 3A Division II for the second consecutive year.
Perhaps even more unlikely was which player had quarterbacked the 2015 run.
Senior Dylan Harkrider had been playing the position since he and his stepfather, Wildcats head coach Whitney Keeling, arrived in Waskom prior to the 2010 season. But as the 2015 season approached, Harkrider had only served as a backup on the varsity level.
Complicating the task of repeating as champs was Harkrider's health, which was still in question just weeks before the new season began. A lower back injury that had previously required surgery was flaring up again.
"We were going into the season and we didn’t know if he was going to be able to participate or not," Keeling said.
Not only did Harkrider start all 16 games, he won every time. And for his efforts, Harkrider is the 2015 ETSN.fm East Texas Football Super Team Offensive Newcomer of the Year.
He follows last season's winner, Alto quarterback Keenen Johnson.
The odds of Waskom getting back to state with a hobbled Harkrider at quarterback and a plethora of newcomers taking the field were considerably low.
"I was definitely worried about my health and how long I could hold up," Harkrider said. "My main focus was on our team and how we could mold things together with so many new guys. We lost so many key parts from the state team last year. I never thought we could make it back, but we approached the season with a mindset of one game at a time. As each game unfolded, we started to believe more and more that we can make another run at it. We proved everyone wrong this past season, including myself."
Harkrider finished the season with 1,202 yards passing with 21 touchdowns and four interceptions while adding 701 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.
All under the watchful eye of his stepfather.
"Dylan was not a great runner but he always got positive yards it seemed," Keeling said. "His passing ability was a big deal to our offense. The other teams had to respect our passing game more. He was always in control of the game and never got rattled even when his dad was yelling at him."
Harkrider, perhaps, saved his most clutch performance for Waskom's 33-21 state title game over Franklin. His 14-yard touchdown run midway through the fourth quarter gave the Wildcats the go-ahead score. And his 23-yard scoring toss to Kaleb Haynes got Waskom its first points of the night.
"This was easily one of the most special times of my life," Harkrider said. "To come back from a back injury like I did and leading our team to another state title means the world to me. This team worked extremely hard to achieve this goal. The resilient effort that was put forth in every game defined our team. It's such an unbelievable feeling winning back-to-back state championships. I will forever cherish these memories and this spectacular season."