To be perfectly honest, Braden Drake couldn’t have had the year Braden Drake did without Kaden Charboneau. And Charboneau couldn’t have had the year he had without Drake.
It was a tough call on this year’s Male Athlete of the Year between the two Wagoner seniors. Drake was a 2,000-yard rusher for a program that won its fifth state football championship this year. Charboneau was a key part of a record-setting defense that gave Drake, also a defender, a chance to save its season in the quarterfinals on the other side of the ball. More on that later.
Charboneau was a state champion in wrestling. Drake was a runner-up, losing arguably to the best wrestler in any class.
Drake was statistically the best tennis player, although he and his partner were ninth in No. 1 singles while Charboneau was second in No. 2 doubles.
Wagoner’s coaching staff, the ones who know their kids as well as anyone, saw it as close, but in the end, gave their own honor to Drake.
“You really couldn’t go wrong with either one,” said Dale Condict, Wagoner’s athletic director and head football coach. “They were our top two and I love both of them. Our families are tight. There’s a lot of years with both.”
Roger Drake, Braden’s dad, had the view of a parent. One of two direct views.
“They worked out together this year in wrestling,” he said. “They’d give no quarter for each other just because they were buddies. Whoever wins state of those two was going to thank the other because that’s their guy. Without them, they don’t get there.”
That’s kind of the tandem impact they had in football.
Trailing Tuttle 14-7 at Odom Field in the quarterfinals, Wagoner scored twice in just over a minute to advance with a 21-14 win.
Sawyer Jones connected with Nunu Clayton for 23 yards and Chase Nanni for 34 to tie the game with 1:40 to play after Tuttle had gone out in front with four minutes remaining. Wagoner’s defense, including Charboneau — who earlier stopped a drive with an interception — forced a three-and-out. With 30 seconds left and 72 yards away from the end zone, Drake took over.
“On fourth down, I remember looking at Nunu and saying ‘we’re going to do this,’” Braden said. “Next play, a gap opens right up, I find the seam, see the open field and I’m gone. It was 27 sweep but I cut it up to, it was either the three or five gap. All I saw was open field.”
Avoiding its closest call to spoiling a perfect season, Wagoner went on to beat Cushing, then Clinton, for the championship.
“We’ve seen a lot of great games here at Wagoner,” Condict told his team after that game. “But this may have been the best game ever on this field.”
Drake had 247 yards rushing and two early touchdowns with 100 yards in the first eight minutes of the title game. That was on top of 218 in the semifinal against Cushing.
He was the All-Phoenix football MVP. Charboneau was the Wrestler of the Year, winning his title at 182 pounds and finishing 27-1 with a 3-2 win over Sam Schmidt of Tuttle.
Drake, 25-3 on the year, lost to unbeaten sophomore K.J. Evans of Heritage Hall, who was 31-0 at 152 pounds. It was a 5-1 points decision and a second straight runner-up finish for Drake after winning state as a sophomore. It was also a tournament played all in one day instead of separating the finals into a second day, all due to COVID issues, and Drake had a nine-minute semifinal just hours before.
Evans went on to win a national tournament in Virginia Beach, Va., with a major decision in the finals.
Drake was on Evans three times and couldn’t quite get a takedown.
“One I thought I had. I let him up and didn’t get the points,” Drake recalled.
Micco Charboneau, who retired after this year’s state wrestling championships as Wagoner’s coach, said there was little that separated his two prized guys. One of which was his own 24/7.
“I can’t think of any time, practice, whatever, you didn’t have to worry about them not being all there,” the coach said. “Accountability and working hard, they were partners all year and I did it that way for a reason. Neither one will take getting taken down easy. And I knew they’d go after each other.”
He was also in on the decision of Wagoner’s own honor.
“I’ve never been a dude to put my kid out there myself, influencing that way because I’m a coach,” he said. “But it really is a situation where you can’t go wrong with either.”
Then there was tennis. At Wagoner, it’s almost become a brother of football as several over recent years do both. Drake and partner Logan Sterling were 22-8.
Drake at one time played baseball and ran track. It happened on a situation when he was in the sixth grade, playing with his older brothers that he found a liking to the sport.
“I used to play baseball, started wrestling at 3, and football in first grade,” Drake said. “I wasn’t enjoying baseball or track as much as I thought. Tennis is one of the funnest sports I’ve ever played.”
Drake will go on to Central Oklahoma, the site of his state championship football performance, and continue in that sport. Tennis, a sport that requires specialty to be successful at higher levels, will become a recreational endeavor for him.
But, what if someone had come to Braden in the first grade, when Dad got him to play football, and offered all the support and training to specialize in one sport?
His choice in that situation?
“Probably tennis. It’s fun, and you don’t take the beating you do in football,” he said. “When I’d watch football videos of Barry Sanders when I was younger, I wanted to be like him. But I really did have a lot of fun in tennis. It would be one of the other.”
And with this honor, the fourth to go to a Wagoner boy, it really could have been one of the other, it was that close.
Got to listen to the coaches.
That’s what they tell the players anyway.
Sometimes, you’re just blessed with options. Wagoner was.
THROUGH THE YEARS
2021 — Braden Drake, Wagoner
2020 — Zane Adams, Haskell
2019 — Cade Shropshire, Checotah
2018 – Bobby Cade, Sequoyah
2017 — Malcolm Rodriguez, Wagoner
2016 — Malcolm Rodriguez, Wagoner
2015 — Roman Rodriguez, Wagoner
2014 — Chandler Puckett, Hilldale
2013 — Rowdy Simon, Vian
2012 — Kevin Peterson, Wagoner
2011 — Kevin Peterson, Wagoner
2010 — Cale Elam, Oktaha
2009 — Cale Elam, Oktaha
2008 — Stacy McGee, Muskogee
2007 — Londell Taylor, Vian
2006 — Vfastv Locust, Vian
2005 — Tray Bowie, Eufaula
2004 — Tray Bowie, Eufaula
2003 — Solomon HorseChief, Sequoyah