State championship notes: In meeting of star QBs, Westlake's Cade Klubnik shines brighter
ARLINGTON — The only ones who might have loved the thrilling performances of Southlake Carroll quarterback Quinn Ewers and Westlake quarterback Cade Klubnik more than the socially distanced fans scattered across the stands at AT&T Stadium are recruiting analysts.
Ewers, a 6-foot-3, 195-pound Ohio State pledge, and the uncommitted 6-2, 180-pound Klubnik are the top two quarterback recruits in the state for the class of 2022, and both juniors only enhanced their blue-chip status.
Ewers has earned his spot atop the national rankings for his class with a cannon arm and uncanny pocket presence for a young quarterback in his second year as a starter. He didn’t disappoint in his team’s 52-34 loss to Westlake despite two interceptions and a fumble. Ewers threw for 351 yards and three touchdowns on 23-of-39 passing and led Carroll to 34 points, the most Westlake has allowed since a state seminal loss to Beaumont West Brook in 2018.
But Klubnik, the game's offensive most valuable player, used the state’s biggest stage to make his case as one of the elite quarterbacks in the country. Klubnik, ranked as the No. 2 quarterback in Texas for 2022 by 247Sports as well as the 14th-best overall prospect in the state, dazzled with both his arm and his legs while leading the Chaps to their third state title.
Listed as a pro-style prospect by virtually every recruiting analyst, Klubnik flashed his accuracy and arm strength while dissecting the Dragon defense. He completed 18 of 20 passes for 220 yards and a touchdown and had 17 carries for 97 yards, both career highs. That performance came even though Klubnik didn’t throw a pass in practice all week after getting his shoulder banged up against Galena Park North Shore in the state semifinals.
“He is super dynamic with his legs,” Southlake Carroll coach Riley Dodge said. “When you have a quarterback as accurate as he is and can really run, when he’s in the open field, he may be the fastest guy on the field. That ain’t fun when the fastest guy on the field is touching the ball 100% of the time.”
The presence of Ewers made no difference to Klubnik, who said, “I treated (the game) like any other game.”
“I wasn’t paying attention to the quarterback on the other sidelines,” he said. “I paid a lot of attention to their defense. It was never about me or him. It was about that defense.”
Taaffe sticks it to opponent – again
Maybe Jerry Jones should think about getting Michael Taaffe’s name in the Cowboys’ Ring of Honor, because the Westlake senior defensive back certainly enjoys playing at AT&T Stadium.
Taaffe earned his second consecutive defensive most valuable player honor after a stellar game on both sides of the ball. He had the game’s first takeaway when he picked off Ewers on Southlake Carroll’s final drive of the first half, and then he made the crowd rise to its feet with a leaping, one-handed interception in the third quarter. A Rice signee, Taaffe also made five tackles and had five receptions for 50 yards on offense.
Last season, Taaffe was voted the defensive MVP in Westlake's win over Denton Guyer after an interception, a sack, two tackles and two pass breakups.
But for Taaffe, making plays at the home of the Cowboys is the same as making plays in a regular-season game at Burger Stadium in the middle of October.
“It would be a cool story that I dreamed and prayed that this is the game I will make a great play in,” he said. “But that’s not true. I try to make these plays each week. It’s about the team. I mean, without that pressure the guys up front were getting on the five-star quarterback (Ewers), we wouldn’t make those plays in the secondary.”
News and notes
Both Westlake and Southlake Carroll made their 10th appearance in a state championship game, which is tied for fourth on the all-time list. Katy, which beat Cedar Hill in Saturday's Class 6A Division II title game, holds the state record with 15 appearances in a title game. ... Westlake has had four head coaches since 1987, and all four — Ron Schroeder, Derek Long, Darren Allman and Todd Dodge — have guided the Chaps to a title game. ... With his sixth championship as a head coach, Dodge remains fifth on the state's all-time list of coaches who have won the most state titles. Gordon Wood tops the list with nine championships at Stamford and Brownwood. ... Carroll fell to 8-2 in state title games. … With the win, Westlake became the first team in the state’s highest classification to win back-to-back championships in different divisions since Southlake Carroll won a Class 5A DI title in 2005 and the 5A DII title over Westlake in 2006. … Westlake sophomore receiver Jaden Greathouse had five catches for 103 yards and a touchdown, and senior running back Zane Minors ran for 135 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. … As a team, Westlake ran for 295 yards on 41 carries, and Grey Nakfoor ran for three touchdowns. … Cade McCrary, a former all-state receiver for Lake Travis who helped the Cavs win state titles in 2007 and 2008, is the running backs for Southlake Carroll. He started his coaching career at a middle school in the Lake Travis school district after he finished his collegiate playing career at Texas.