When Arkansas football pledge Khari Harding takes the field Friday night for the biggest game of his young life, the safety will do so with confidence and no plans for his high school career to end.
That's even though No. 5 Edmond Santa Fe (10-1) will go in as the underdog to top-ranked Tulsa Union (9-2), who have won the last four state titles and six of the last eight.
"I just feel like this is our time," Harding said. "We are going into the game with a lot of confidence. They are the defending state champion and it is a big challenge, but we are going into the game high and ready to play our best."
The Wolves topped Putnam North 35-12 last Thursday last week for their eighth straight win while Union edged Westmoore 17-14 on Friday to set up this week's second-round match-up at Wantland Stadium.
It has been quite a turnaround for Edmond Santa Fe, who was 1-9 in Harding's sophomore season, 10-2 last season and now pushing on the door for a title this season.
"We take a lot of pride in what we have been able to accomplish as a program the last couple of years due to hard work and playing together as a team," Harding said. "Now it's time to take the next step."
There are four teams from the West side of the state (Edmond Santa Fe, Edmond North, Norman and Norman North) going up against four from the East side (Jenks, Tulsa Union, Owasso and Broken Arrow) in the quarterfinals.
Union and Jenks have won the last eight state titles.
"We have several great teams on the West side and I think this is the year that the West steps up and takes down the East," Harding said. "I certainly want that to be us standing at the end."
Harding has had an outstanding season with over 80 tackles and three interceptions to go along with two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery.
"I think I have played pretty well and our defense has really come along late in and playing the best it has all year," Harding said. "That's a big reason I think we are going to are going to come out on top this weekend."
Harding committed to Arkansas back on June 9th and is one of 16 current pledges on the Razorbacks' list.
He has so far withstood overtures from other schools, although he has taken an official visit to Texas Tech and an unofficial one to Memphis.
"I am still committed to Arkansas and I am just kind of waiting to see what happens over there after the season is over with the coaching situation," Harding said. "I went to Texas Tech and checked out the Oklahoma game there and also took a trip to Memphis with some of my teammates."
The recruiting can hopefully be on the backburner for a little while longer according to Harding.
"I hope that we are just going to keep on winning and I have football games to play for a few more weeks," Harding said. That way I can worry about all the recruiting and coaching down the line."
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