JENKS — Throughout his high school career, Dylan Harding was rarely nervous before a game.
He now admits he was nervous before the Class 6A championship game against Tulsa Union last month — and for good reason.
The Jenks senior safety was dealing with one of many injuries he suffered during the season that limited him in practices and was worried he would hinder the Trojans.
But just like the first 13 games of the year, he played through it and played remarkably well to finish out a season in which he earned a spot on The Oklahoman's All-State football team.
“Once adrenaline pumped through, it took away some of (the pain),” said Harding, who is verbally committed to Oklahoma State. “It was worth it to go out there and play with some of my best friends and under some of the best coaches that I'll ever have.”
Harding, at 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, has a reputation for being a heavy hitter for the Trojans, but it was on offense that he suffered his first injury of the season in Week 1. He caught a touchdown pass against Euless Trinity (Texas) and landed on his back shoulder, separating it.
He later dealt with a stress fracture in his foot before hurting his back in the playoff opener against Owasso when he hit 6-foot-2, 205-pound receiver John Cole Neph.
He never practiced again.
“If you know him, game time is his fun time,” Jenks coach Allan Trimble said. “Obviously, we'd love for him to practice but his experience level and love to play is what really allowed him to do it. He loves to play on Fridays and is not going to miss that for anything.”
Despite the ailments, Harding finished with 59 tackles, one interception, one fumble recovery and seven pass breakups. He was also dominant in a limited offensive role with seven touchdown receptions, including a 76-yard, game-winning TD with 25 seconds remaining in the Trojans' first win against rival Tulsa Union.
“Our whole goal was to go 14-0 and that play helps us a lot to go 14-0,” Harding said. “We didn't play our cleanest game and I think God was on our side that day because you don't see very many (76-yard) touchdowns in the last second to win football games.
“It was just one of those things where it was play I felt like it was one of the only ways we were going to win.”