District victories are all important, but Claremore’s final five games are more important than ever.

They will decide the team’s playoff fate, whether they are in or they are out.

The Zebras easily defeated Hale and Memorial in the first two district games, the two cellar-dwellers of 5A-4. Now, their next five opponents are all capable of making one of the four playoff spots — beginning with a trip to Bishop Kelley Friday.

Both teams are 4-1 overall and 2-0 in district play.

“We have had a great first half of our regular season,” said Claremore football coach Jarrett Hurt. “Our players have created some momentum heading in the back half of our schedule. Our theme of the year is ‘finish.’ We have emphasized finishing the back half of our schedule better than we did last year. We have six quality teams in our district. Two good teams will be left out of the playoffs. The next five games are crucial for us.”

Kelley was tripped up just once in last year’s district schedule, a 21-7 loss at Claremore. The Comets were picked to win the district again this season, and they are surely ready to even the score with the Zebras Friday.

“We think Kelley knows we are capable of beating them after last year,” Hurt said. “However, this is a whole new year. We have to earn the right to win all over again if we want a victory Friday night.”

It might be a different team than last year, but Claremore’s balanced attack is something Kelley must be aware of.

So far, quarterback Noah Grimett has thrown for 833 yards and 11 touchdowns.

His favorite target so far is Dylan Kedzior, a track star with speed to burn who has nearly 500 receiving yards and seven TDs.

As a team, the Zebras have rushed for 1,325 yards so far, behind the tandem of Coleman Parsons and Dakota Hudson.

Kelley is coming off a 37-21 win over Pryor. They whipped Collinsville 24-6 the week before.

The winner of this game will be sitting pretty at the top of the district with a 3-0 record. Skiatook is the other district unbeaten as they play Memorial Friday.

Last year, after beating Memorial, the Zebras were alone at the top of the district standings. But then three straight losses put Claremore behind the eight-ball, needing a win over Pryor in the season finale just to get into the playoffs.

Game time is 7 p.m. at Bishop Kelley.

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