Excitement abounds in Claremore.
The No. 5 Zebras are 8-1, headed to the Class 5A playoffs and looking to keep the momentum with a huge ‘Senior Night’ performance against the Grove Ridgerunners this Friday at Lantow Field.
According to Claremore head football coach Rob Gilbreath, “Last week’s win at Coweta was great for this team, the town of Claremore and our school. It guaranteed us a home playoff game — something that hasn’t taken place in quite a while.”
The Zebras clinched the No. 2 seed in the District 5A-4 race behind East Central and will more than likely face either Tulsa Memorial or McAlester in the first round of the Class 5A state playoffs on Nov. 9 at Lantow Field.
Gilbreath acknowledged that his team deserves the town of Claremore behind them as the Zebras journey into the postseason.
“Each week, the fans that have come out and supported us have seen that this team never quits and plays with heart,” Gilbreath said. “We’re a team that isn’t going to go down without putting up a fight.”
Claremore’s task Friday night, though, comes against a Grove team that is struggling, Gilbreath added.
“Grove hasn’t won a district game and their only victory came against Miami in Week 1,” he continued. “However, they are one of those teams that doesn’t have anything to lose and will fight hard as long as we let them. The important thing that we have to do is take it to them early and often until they want to throw in the towel.”
Offensively, Grove (1-8 overall, 0-6 district) has total 147 points in nine games for an average of 16.3 per contest.
According to Gilbreath, “Their quarterback (Spychalski) is good and throws and runs well. The tailback (Steffenson) is a good athlete, too, that runs hard and has made some long runs this year.
“Up front, though, they are not very good and struggle against slanting and blitzing.”
Claremore’s defense — led by senior linebacker Jordan Cunningham and with 143 tackles and senior defensive end Grady Caton — has given up a total of 120 points in nine games for an average of 13.3 per contest.
“We take pride in running a base defense that swarms to the football,” Gilbreath said.
The old adage of ‘Defense wins Championships’ still holds true in Zebra Country as coordinator Jarrett Hurt and his ‘Wrecking Crew’ have held four opponents to under 10 points.
Coweta, in Week 9, is the only opponent to score 25 points or more on the Zebras’ fierce defense.