Harding Did Not Waste His Opportunity

It can be said that Dylan Harding is not one to waste an opportunity. His teammates and the Jenks community are certainly glad he did not waste an opportunity in the biggest regular-season game of the year. It's the game that gets all of Tulsa talking, and is often moved to Chapman Stadium on the University of Tulsa campus.

It's the Backyard Bowl, in which powerhouse schools Jenks and Tulsa Union meet to decide the regular-season champion in Class 6A. It's a game where legends and plays are made that will be talked about at 20-, 25-, 30-, and 50-year reunions.

Harding fulfilled a lifelong dream, the kind that is not even close to being guaranteed, when he caught a pass from sophomore quarterback Cooper Nunley and finished a 76-yard scoring play with 25 seconds left to write another unbelievable, mind-blowing highlight-crazy chapter in the Backyard Bowl history. Jenks was behind at the start of that play, but won the game 20-16.

"It still hasn't set in," said Harding, two days after scoring the touchdown. "It's something I've thought about all the time growing up. You see Kejuan's (Jones) highlight play (80-yard touchdown for Jenks comeback win over Union in 2007) and know all the tradition that follows that series.

"It was crazy when I caught the ball and was running. It almost didn't seem real. I just wanted to make sure that nobody stripped the ball from behind, and then I was in the end zone hugging all my teammates."

Nunley is a sophomore quarterback who Harding said was really cool under the circumstances. Harding said the play itself is still very clear in his mind.

"I mean it was definitely clear and is something you can't forget," explained Harding, who finished the game with two receptions for 117 yards and was credited with six tackles on defense. "The whole game they had been playing me in man press with a safety behind, but with the two-minute offense in I had one man, corner on me. I got by him and he turned his hips early and the ball was there."

Harding wasn't going to waste his opportunity to go to Oklahoma State. Three months before that big play, he had his chance to impress the OSU coaches at a one-day minicamp. He knew the Cowboys wanted to see speed.

"It was kind of different, with the atmosphere you're put in with the stadium and all these recruits," said Harding. "You get your adrenaline going in the stretching lines, and the first thing we did were 40s.

"I kind of went up there and was relaxed as I could. I don't know what my time was, but it was fast enough that coach (Glenn) Spencer came over and timed my next couple. It was one of those things where everybody knew my time except me. Obviously, it was enough to impress them."

Oklahoma State fans can expect to see what Jenks fans have experienced: Dylan Harding is a player who really knows how to rise to the moment.

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