Yes Class 5A, the Claremore Zebras are for real.
For the first time in years, the Zebras are 5-0 and opening eyes around the state of Oklahoma.
“It’s exciting,” Claremore sophomore defensive back Dustin Basks said on the magnificent start to the 2012 season.
On Homecoming, the Zebras rode their defense to a 23-7 win over Tahlequah before a packed house at Lantow Field.
“Thank God for defense,” Claremore head coach Rob Gilbreath said. “We forced five turnovers and contained a very, very good running back in (Mason) McMillan.”
The welcome return of senior defensive tackle Grady Caton — who has been battling injuries — turned into a blessing in disguise for Claremore.
“I have been down on Grady (Caton) lately, but tonight he played like a champion,” Claremore defensive coordinator Jarrett Hurt told the players at midfield following the win.
The constant pressure that Caton applied on Tahlequah quarterback David Dick proved that he’s back and tenacious as ever.
Claremore’s main focus coming into Friday’s battle with Tahlequah was to hold Tigers running back Mason McMillan under 200 yards.
McMillan and the Tigers rushing attack carried 25 times for 64 yards.
Mission accomplished for the Zebras defense.
“Our defense played spectacular,” Gilbreath said. “We had four three-and-outs to start the game and that was big for us.”
A week ago in Tahlequah’s 35-20 win over Grove, McMillan rushed for 225 yards on 26 carries with a pair of touchdowns.
Gilbreath said earlier in the week that if McMillan got 200 yards on the Zebras, it could be a long night.
The relentless pursuit of Claremore’s fierce linebacking corp, led by senior Jordan Cunningham and sophomore Baron Hope, kept McMillan contained to the inside and unable to break free.
After a scoreless first quarter, the Zebras took an advantage of good field position following Basks’ first of three interceptions.
With 4:01 remaining in the second quarter, Claremore quarterback Matt Whatley faked the handoff to Cunningham and rolled to his left on the bootleg for the 4-yard touchdown. Jared Vincent’s extra point failed and the Zebras led 6-0.
“(Matt) Whatley’s been working hard on getting his speed back, and tonight, he used his legs to make some big plays for us,” Gilbreath said. “He’s at his best when he’s scrambling out of the pocket.”
On the ensuing drive, Tahlequah answered with Dick connecting on a 10-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Eisensmith to put the Tigers ahead 7-6 with 54.6 seconds left until halftime.
“We had some mishaps on special teams early in the game, and that’s not like us,” Gilbreath said. “Our kickoff return coverage has got to get better, especially with East Central coming up on Friday.”
Claremore’s ability to score quick turned the momentum into its favor in a span of 30 seconds.
Tyler Cagle’s onside kick recovery at midfield, combined with Whatley’s gritty running led to Claremore capping off a 5-play, 52-yard scoring drive.
With 22 seconds left in the second quarter, Whatley once again rolled to his left and spotted junior wide receiver Caleb Webster open in the end zone for a 27-yard touchdown that put Claremore ahead 12-7 at halftime.
In the second half, Claremore intercepted three passes — two by Basks and one by Webster — got a fumble recovery by Brycen Short and a blocked punt by Nathan Lollis.
Short’s 2-yard touchdown run with 6:31 left in the third quarter extended Claremore’s lead to 18-7.
Then, with 2:12 left in the third quarter, Vincent booted a 20-yard field goal to make it 21-7.
After Vincent’s kick off pinned Tahlequah inside its own 3-yard line, Lollis rose to the occasion on special teams. With 1:48 remaining in the third quarter, Lollis blocked the punt for a safety that put Claremore up 23-7.
Zebras QB Whatley takes charge in 23-7 homecoming win over Tahlequah
Yes Class 5A, the Claremore Zebras are for real.
StOUt lives for Bedlam
To most people, Claremore’s Hannah Stout is a bubbly, warm-hearted dental hygenist with a priceless smile.
But, on Saturday’s in the fall, Stout is otherwise known as “Hannah Cabana” around legendary Oklahoma Sooner icons Barry Switzer, Thomas Lott and Mark Rodgers.
Taylor drains 6 treys, Lady Zebras clip Collinsville, 49-46
When it comes to shooting, the Claremore Lady Zebras would rather drain three pointers than free throws.
Claremore’s Monica Taylor converted four of her six treys in the second half for a game-high 18 points as the Lady Zebras held off Collinsville, 49-46 in the season opener Tuesday night at the Claremore High School Gym.
As the buzzer sounded, the Claremore Zebras found themselves in an unfamiliar place.
For the first time in two years, the Zebras were on the winning side of the scoreboard and pumping each other’s chests after their 43-29 season-opening victory over the Collinsville Cardinals.
Cards soar past Sperry
In a big Class 3A gun down, No. 3 Verdigris had more weapons than No. 6 Sperry.
In their home opener, the 2-0 Cardinals buried eight three-point shots and converted 21-of-23 free throws in rolling past the Pirates 69-54.
Battenfield, Hanslovan spark No. 4 Lady Cards past Sperry
Fourth-ranked Verdigris shot nearly 50 percent and forced Sperry into 22 turnovers, finally pulling away for a 73-41 home opening victory Tuesday night in Class 3A girls basketball.
Free tickets for OSU-South Carolina basketball game
Thanks to an anonymous donor, the remaining tickets for Friday night’s Oklahoma State men’s basketball game against South Carolina have been purchased and made available to the general public free of charge.
NFL: Cowboys' Hatcher savors rest, shrugs off rust
Jason Hatcher is happy to have the rest and not worried about accumulating rust.
The Dallas defensive tackle and his teammates were back at work Tuesday - but only for meetings - after having nine of the previous 19 days off thanks to a late bye and their annual mini-bye after Thanksgiving.
NFL: Ravens' Tucker shows range in kicking and singing
The Baltimore Ravens most formidable offensive threat these days is Justin Tucker, a quirky fellow whose skill set transcends kicking a football with uncanny accuracy.
Despite scoring only one touchdown in each of its last two games, Baltimore won twice because Tucker kicked four field goals against the New York Jets and five more in a 22-20 victory over Pittsburgh.
NFL: Vikings QB Cassel on track to start for Ponder
Matt Cassel stepped on the platform, grasped the podium with both hands, looked around and grinned.
''It's nice being up here. I've never been up here before. It's a pretty nice setup,'' Cassel said as he surveyed the makeshift interview area the Minnesota Vikings have set up next to their indoor practice field.
NFL: Rodgers limited as QB questions linger for Packers
Aaron Rodgers would rather not let the ''Will he-or-won't he'' questions linger until Sunday.
The Green Bay Packers' franchise quarterback expects a decision Friday -Saturday tops - whether he'll be medically cleared to face the Atlanta Falcons in a game crucial to the team's dwindling playoff prospects.
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