NORMAN — Brady Kulbeth’s first response was shock.
He had just watched close friend and Washington quarterback Brock Harmon go out with a torn ACL in the middle of the biggest game of the Warriors’ season. And coaches were looking to him to fill the gaps.
Kulbeth hadn’t played quarterback in years. He knew the offense inside and out from the slot receiver position, but was considerably less experienced at running it from under center, particularly against Lindsay in a Week 10 game that amounted to a district championship.
The junior moved under center and
slowly grew more comfortable in the role as the game progressed. With Kulbeth at the helm, Washington put together four drives of nine of more plays against a stout Lions defense. After the game, he said the Warriors were playing their best football of the game in the final quarter after struggling in the first half.
“Brock is one of my good friends, and it was hard to see him go down,” Kulbeth said. “We were down at halftime. No one had the urge to get pumped up after our quarterback went down. But I got more comfortable as it went on and we were playing our best in that fourth quarter.”
The Warriors didn’t win the game. But they did find their quarterback of the future in Kulbeth.
It was an impressive first performance from an athlete who expected to play the game at receiver, and there’s little doubt it will be the last such performance Kulbeth puts on. All of which has Washington (7-3), which hosts Lexington at 7:30 p.m. Friday in the first round of the Class 2A playoffs, optimistic about its postseason chances even without Harmon.
No one is more enthused about Kulbeth’s potential than the former starter, who is at peace with the way his high school career ended.
“It’s going to be hard to watch those first couple of plays, but they’ll be fine without me with Brady leading them,” Harmon said. “He’s going to settle in and keep them fighting.”
Harmon isn’t the only one who feels that way.
“The team’s going to rally around Brady and he’s going to lead us,” coach Brad Beller said. “Our offense isn’t geared around one person; it’s geared around the quarterback distributing the ball. And Brady’s going to have a big game for us.”
Kulbeth is still trying to take it all in. A speedster on the field — Beller said he has 4.5 speed and can “fly” when he wants to — Kulbeth is now trying to learn to lead the offense just as quickly. He said he’s drawing on his experience as quarterback in junior high and isn’t worried about the pressure that comes with being Washington’s signal-caller. But the one thing he most wants to improve on is his leadership of the Warriors, a team that has aspirations for a deep playoff run.
“I’m focused on getting the mindset right, to keep everyone calm and ready to come out and want to win more than the other team,” he said. “I’ve done this before and I know I can handle it. There’s a little more pressure, but I’m handling it. We’ll be ready to play.”
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