Claremore Daily Progress

Sports

November 9, 2012

Zebras in Sweet 16

Big-game experience in baseball helps QB Whatley succeed on gridiron

CLAREMORE — Last May, Claremore junior quarterback Matt Whatley was living the dream — playing in the state championship for the Claremore Zebras baseball team.

Fast forward to November and the Zebras starting signal-caller hopes to even his playoff mark to 1-1 with a win over Tulsa Memorial in the first round of the Class 5A playoffs tonight at Lantow Field.

The last time the Zebras advanced to the postseason in football, Whatley was the starting quarterback as a freshman in 2010.

The 5-foot-9, 180-pound quarterback took over at mid-season for departing senior Levi Rudd and steered the Zebras into the first round of the playoffs at Booker T. Washington.

On that rainy, cold night in Tulsa, Whatley and the Zebras fell to a speedy Booker T. Washington squad that featured former wide receiver Tyler Lockett, who is now a playmaker for the No. 2-ranked Kansas State Wildcats.

Booker T. Washington dealt the Zebras a 43-0 loss.

For Zebra head coach Rob Gilbreath and many of the seniors on this year’s playoff squad, it was a night they never want to remember.

“We’ve come a long ways since that 2010 playoff game at Booker T,” Gilbreath said. “The leadership of these seniors and the maturity of our quarterback (Whatley) has been the difference-maker.”

Whatley, who will be a three-year starter as the Zebras’ catcher, has drawn the respect of his teammates on the gridiron with his competitive spirit.

“Matt’s such a great leader and the key to our offensive success,” Claremore senior fullback James Chester said. “We go as Matt goes on offense.”

Through 10 games this season, Whatley has completed 59-of-111 passes for 948 yards and nine touchdowns with six interceptions.

His ability to scrambling is a dangerous asset to the Zebras’ offense, Gilbreath said.

On the ground, Whatley has 73 carries for 267 yards and three touchdowns. In Claremore’s 34-7 win over Grove last Friday, Whatley scooted down the right sideline for a 55-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

“Matt has the ability to burn the corner — whether he’s running or throwing,” Gilbreath said.

“His arm strength is explosive and it’s good to see he finally has his speed back.”

Early in the season, Whatley was hampered by injuries to his ankle, thus limiting his running attempts in Claremore’s spread offense.

Whatley made solid progressions and proved he was back to 100 percent in the Zebras’ huge 23-7 win over Tahlequah.

“Each week since that game with Tahlequah, we’ve added more running plays with Whatley,” Gilbreath said. “Our offense is at its best when Whatley is able to make plays with his feet.”

Since a 20-19 loss to District 5A-4 champion East Central, Whatley and the Zebras have rolled off four-straight wins.

Gilbreath said to his team that it’s a new season tonight.

“Everyone is 0-0. Win and you keep playing. Lose and you go home,” Gilbreath added.

“Tulsa Memorial has won the last two games against us (Claremore), and they have the type of athletes that can take it to the house on any given play.

“If we play aggressive like we’ve done against East Central, Coweta and Collinsville, then we’ll be successful and advancing to the Elite Eight.”

For Whatley, the throw-downs to second base and hitting doubles in the gap can wait.

Right now, it’s ‘playoff time’ in Claremore.

1
Text Only
Sports
  • DSC_0111web.jpg ‘Team behind the Team’

    For the second-straight year, the Claremore Zebra student training staff will be represented in the Oklahoma Coaches All-State games held in Tulsa.
    Meranda Golbek and Sarah Szcinski, a pair of 2014 Claremore High School graduates, earned All-State honors for their athletic training careers and will join two other student trainers from Jenks and Stillwater High School on the East squad.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • FISHFRYweb.jpg Claremore QB Club holds Fish Fry Aug. 2

    The Claremore Zebra Quarterback Club will hold its annual Fish Fry fundraiser on Aug. 2 at the Claremore High School cafeteria.

    July 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • GOLF: OSU's Jelly wins Oklahoma State Amateur

    Oklahoma State's Brendon Jelley captured the Oklahoma Golf Association State Amateur Championship on Wednesday with a 1-up victory over Preston Crawford at The Patriot Golf Club.

    July 29, 2014

  • OSU wrestling to host Alumni Reunion

    Oklahoma State wrestling will host an alumni reunion for former Cowboy wrestlers, trainers and managers on Sept. 19-20 in Stillwater.

    July 29, 2014

  • OU's Mixon claims self defense

    The attorney for Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon says the incident that left a 20-year-old female OU student with multiple facial fractures was a case of self-defense.

    July 29, 2014

  • Sooners' secondary gets ready for changes

    There’s a reason Oklahoma is the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 Conference and a front-runner to get a spot in the first College Football Playoff.

    The experience – especially on defense – is the leading cause.

    July 29, 2014

  • SOFTBALL: Adair aiming high in 2014

    Adair's Lady Warriors have never shied away from the spotlight.

    Head coach Chell Looney's team will have plenty of chances to earn respect and a shot at the program's third straight regional tournament appearance.

    July 29, 2014

  • Cat Conti earns her stripes as football official

    Cat Conti never played sports, let alone had any interest in them, when she was growing up in Southern California. She wanted to be a Hollywood star.

    July 29, 2014

  • Fitzgerald: Union push unified Northwestern

    No matter how this season unfolds, Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald insisted there is no more unified team than his Wildcats.

    For that, he credits the push for them to unionize.

    July 29, 2014

  • NFL: Make or break season for Rams QB Bradford

    It's become a rite of training camp for Sam Bradford.

    Every summer, he deals with the oversized burden of living up to getting picked first overall in 2010. The St. Louis Rams quarterback is not surprised that once again, he's supposedly at a career crossroads.

    July 29, 2014