AUSTIN, Texas — Westlake has a storied history of great quarterbacks. It's a history that Cade Klubnik wanted to be a part of from an early age.
“Playing quarterback at Westlake has always been a dream of mine since I was in the second or third grade,” said Klubnik.
That dream became a reality his sophomore season in 2019. Klubnik was in a three-person battle for the quarterback job that year. He started a few games during the regular season, but eventually was playing the backup role to Kirkland Michaux during the Chaps' playoff run.
“Sophomore year was probably the best year for me I could ever ask for,” said Klubnik. “I got to compete for a starting job for seven weeks. Every practice was important, how you did on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday determined how much I was going to play on Friday.”
Klubnik got to be there for the ride as Westlake won a state title in 2019, and 2020 was supposed to be his season to take over but everything got thrown up in the air when COVID hit. Many wondered if high school football would be played that fall. The uncertainty brought Klubnik and his teammates closer together.
“The work that we had all put in in the off-season when everyone was thinking that nothing was going on,” says Klubnik. “We were out here getting work in on our own safely.”
When the season did resume that September, Klubnik and Westlake became almost unstoppable. The Chaps were undefeated going into the state semifinals and a showdown with North Shore. In that game, Westlake was trailing late in the fourth quarter when Klubnik hit Michael Taafe on a perfect deep ball that led to him running in the game winning touchdown on a fourth-down play soon after. Klubnik counts those plays and that game as maybe the most memorable of his high school career.
“It’s hard to leave out the North Shore game, the throw to Michael Taafe,” Klubnik recalled. “Fourth and one, ran a fake and Luke Nicklos got a great block and ran it around the edge. That was just an amazing play.”
That win sent Westlake into the 6A D1 title game the following week against Southlake Carroll. Westlake would win that game 52-34, making it back-to-back titles for them. Also in that game, Klubnik would outduel the top-rated quarterback recruit Quinn Ewers. Klubnik was 18-20 for 220 yards and one touchdown passing. He also ran for 97 yards and two touchdowns. Coming off that incredible junior season the attention around Klubnik took off.
“There was tons of hype going on after my junior season,” said Klubnik. “The best advice I got was stay in the moment, and stay in your close group of people. I’ve never gone outside of that little bubble because those people are what keeps me, me.”
That hype led to interest from colleges across the country with Klubnik eventually committing to Clemson and signing with the Tigers in December. With his future planned out, Klubnik was determined and excited to play his senior season and try to win another title.
“This year is everything for me. This is where I am now and what I’m going to put my heart into,” Klubnik said back in August. “I can’t imagine not playing here for one more year.”
What Klubnik also couldn’t predict was hurting his left shoulder while getting tackled in a game against Bowie. Klubnik knew immediately that he was injured and worried that would be it for his high school career.
“I was like there’s no way I was done with high school football after this,” Klubnik said of the injury. “We got to work and got that thing back as soon as possible and our goal was, I don’t care what it takes, we're going to be back for the Lake Travis game.”
Klubnik did return that night against his rival. He made five total touchdowns, helping Westlake beat Lake Travis 63-21. The Chaps would roll over everyone else along the way to winning a third straight state title. In the championship game, Klubnik threw for four touchdowns in a win over Denton Guyer. He finished 30-0 as a starting quarterback and set the Westlake record for most passing yards in a career.
“He is such a wonderful young man, and been such a blessing to coach,” says Westlake head coach Todd Dodge. “To be able to have your quarterback, the face of your program, that refuses to have a bad day, that’s just the kind of person he is. He is very special to me, all of my quarterbacks have been and Cade goes right in there with him.”
The young boy who dreamed of being the Westlake quarterback finishes his high school career as one of the best in school history. You can debate if Drew Brees, Nick Foles or Sam Ehlinger were better, but none won multiple state titles as quarterback, like Klubnik.
“I gave it all I had. All these seniors and Coach Dodge, we gave it all we had,” said Klubnik. “We poured it all out there to see what we could get out of it and it was so fun to end that way. Out of the lonely hours and hours nobody else saw, we had no regrets after it all.”
Klubnik leaves high school as one of the best quarterbacks ever seen in the state. The next chapter of his career starts in January when he’ll enroll at Clemson.