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Oklahoma Class 2A football: Washington’s revolving door at quarterback pushed group to new level

Washington's Emitt Wilk carries the ball during a Class 2A state semifinal game against Beggs on Dec. 11. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]
Washington's Emitt Wilk carries the ball during a Class 2A state semifinal game against Beggs on Dec. 11. [Bryan Terry/The Oklahoman]

WASHINGTON — For a Class 2A school, Washington’s quarterback room didn’t have much space at the beginning of the season.

There were five players vying to be the Warriors’ starting quarterback. Only one was a freshman, but the other four each had legit chances of winning the starting position.

Because of injuries, eligibility rulings and COVID quarantines, Washington’s starting quarterback was a revolving door all throughout the season. Yet that same tumultuous week-to-week craziness in the regular season helped push the group to a new level. Now the Warriors face Tulsa Metro Christian at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Class 2A state championship game at UCO’s Wantland Stadium in Edmond.

“You can’t help but rally around a quarterback,” Washington coach Brad Beller said. “And our team has rallied around ours because they have overcome so much adversity.”

Heading into summer workouts, there was a clear quarterback hierarchy.

Junior Rhett Vaughn was slated to be the starter. Senior Emitt Wilk would be his backup and Jaxon Hendrix was third string, though all would be competing for reps come fall camp. Spring practice was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic, not allowing any of them to showcase improved skills after last season.

Yet a new domino had yet to fall into place. Washington was getting a move-in quarterback.

His name was Daron Bryden, and he immediately became the best quarterback in Washington. The senior-to-be moved from Connecticut with his father, Craig, who was a quarterback trainer.

Connecticut had canceled the fall football season, which meant there wouldn’t be work for Craig, and Daron wouldn’t be able to play high school football. The duo moved to Oklahoma so Craig could continue working and Daron could complete his final high school season.

Daron was one of the best quarterbacks in Connecticut state history. Had he been able to play there his senior season, he likely would’ve broken the state’s all-time passing yardage and touchdown records.

He helped Bloomfield High School to a state championship as a sophomore and back to the state title game during his junior season. Daron had thrown for 7,326 yards and 98 touchdowns against 24 interceptions during his first three years.

He was only 16 touchdowns away from setting a new state record while needing 3,441 passing yards to eclipse that mark.

Although Daron would have to miss the first two games since he moved into the district, the starting job was presumably his once he became eligible.

Yet the other quarterbacks weren’t upset. They saw it as an opportunity to get better.

“He came in and was so helpful at teaching us little things to help us improve,” Wilk said. “Of course we all wanted to play, but we all pushed each other to be better. Daron made me better.”

Before Washington’s first game, Vaughn suffered a hamstring injury that would sideline him for the rest of the year. Wilk started Washington’s opener at Pawnee in Week 0 while Hendrix was the backup.

Against Lindsay in Week 2, Wilk was injured and Hendrix became the starter.

Daron was supposed to be eligible for the district opener in Week 4 against Purcell, but the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association ruled him ineligible. The association ruled Daron’s move to Oklahoma was in his control, and that he wouldn’t be able to play for Washington this season.

Washington and Daron appealed the OSSAA’s decision twice. Both times they were denied.

So Hendrix, who was the fourth-string quarterback only a month before, was now Washington’s starter for the next three games.

“The quarterback position is so important for our offense,” Beller said. “And it helped that the team rallied whoever was behind center.”

Wilk returned from his injury against Community Christian in Week 6 but played slot receiver.

Yet then COVID hit Washington, and Hendrix had to quarantine, meaning Wilk moved back to quarterback.

Since then, he has been a star.

Wilk has had numerous big performances down the stretch, including in Washington’s last three games against Jones, Adair and Beggs. He had been key in Washington’s run to its second state title game in four years.

Now, Wilk is focused on continuing his stellar play to try and bring home a gold ball, but he knows how important the craziness of the quarterback situation was at the beginning of the year. It helped him and others grow and put them in this position.

“All of us seniors have wanted to get back to this point all along,” Wilk said. “There were definitely some challenging moments throughout this season, but I think that helped all of us grow and deal with adversity when we have it. I’m just excited for Saturday.”

Reporter Cameron Jourdan covers high school sports across the Oklahoma City metro and state. Have a story idea for Cameron? He can be reached at or on Twitter at @Cam_Jourdan. Support Cameron’s work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today at or by using the link at the top of this page.

Cameron Jourdan

Cameron Jourdan joined The Oklahoman in March 2019 to cover high school sports. He graduated from Oklahoma State University in May 2018. He had an internship with The Oklahoman and Stillwater News Press. During his time at OSU, Cameron served in a... Read more ›