Progress Correspondent

The arrival of the Keith Bell era is just hours, 24 or so, away.

When the Claremore football Zebras enter Mustang Stadium Thursday night at Oologah, the team will be doing so under the direction of its 25th head coach during a 99-year period.

Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

As it has been for most of the past dozen years, the game will open the season for the two Rogers County teams.

The new Zebra coach has been on the scene long enough to know about the Claremore-Oologah rivalry. What at first was a lopsided affair has turned into a love-hate affair: Each side loves to win and hates to lose.

"Oologah has a great tradition and a very good coaching staff," Bell said this week.

"They are young but talented, and we believe they will give us all we want Thursday night."

A year ago, Claremore recorded a 26-19 victory over the Mustangs when the two teams played at Lantow Field. Different names and faces from that game will fill the starting lineups this season.

The likes of Tyler Harold and Greg Savage will be missing from the Blue and Gold. This time, the Red and White will be without Zane Williams and Steffen Williams.

Graduation has a habit of causing changes.

After a disappointing trip to Ponca City last week for what was scheduled to be Claremore's second preseason scrimmage, Bell and his coaching staff are eager to face Oologah.

The coaches know the Mustangs will square off toe-to-toe against their players. This is something Ponca City's team apparently wasn't willing to do.

"We made a two-hour bus trip to Ponca City and our first offensive unit runs 12 plays,” Bell said. “Then the Ponca coach pulls his team off the field and tells us that's it. They are through."

Why this reaction?

One answer might have been Claremore's style of play.

The Zebras, under Bell's leadership, will be operating out of a new look this year. It promises to be something different.

They will use the no-huddle, hurry-up offense.

When the game officials spot the ball for a new down, Claremore will already be lined up and ready with a new play.

Opposing defenses will have less time to get ready as a result.

"We want to run as many plays as we can and do it as fast as we can," he said. "This style gives us an advantage. We may not be able to line up and run over some teams we play, but if we go at them fast and often, we can do some things. We may run as many as 24 plays in less than 15 minutes. To do this, however, we must be in good condition."

The Zebras learned the hard way that their coach is serious about "going full throttle" from start to finish.

Due to the Thursday game this week, Bell called for a Saturday practice last weekend. Maybe due to the long bus trip the night before, or various other reasons, the players were lackluster going through what was scheduled as a two-hour session.

Not liking what he was seeing after about an hour, Bell sent the players to the locker room.

Instead of taking a shower and then going home, the players were then informed practice was starting all over.

"We all went back out and had a good two-hour-plus practice," Bell said. "They were much better the second time and did what our coaches asked. This is what we must get from them all the time."

Claremore leads the Zebra-Mustang series by a 9-5 margin. The two teams played for the first time in 1992. The Zebras won the first five games and eight of the first nine, but Oologah broke into the win column for the first time in 1997. Before last year's game, the Mustangs won four straight times.

Season series

2005 — Claremore 26, Oologah 19

2004 — Oologah 14, Claremore 13

2003 — Oologah 21, Claremore 7

2002 — Oologah 36, Claremore 6

2001 — Oologah 27, Claremore 20

2000 — Claremore 38, Oologah 21

1999 — Claremore 51, Oologah 7

1998 — Claremore 18, Oologah 16

1997 — Oologah 42, Claremore 34

1996 — Claremore 21, Oologah 14

1995 — Claremore 10, Oologah 0

1994 — Claremore 33, Oologah 8

1993 — Claremore 16, Oologah 15

1992 — Claremore 12, Oologah 10

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