Claremore running back Derrick Reliford rolled up a highlight reel on the Tahlequah Tigers Friday night in District 5A-4 action at Doc Wadley Field.
Reliford carried 40 times for 200 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead the No. 6 Zebras past the Tigers, 30-20.
The win over Tahlequah improved the Zebras to 4-1 overall and 2-0 in district. Tahlequah dropped to 1-1 in district.
Reliford got the Zebras rolling on the first play from the line of scrimmage with a 51-yard touchdown run down the left sideline. Jared Vincent’s extra point missed and Claremore led 6-0.
On the ensuing series, Tahlequah marched downfield with quarterback David Dicks weaving his way through the Claremore defense for a 32-yard touchdown run. The extra point conversion put the Tigers ahead 7-6 with 10:45 left in the first quarter.
Claremore looked to have a 60-yard touchdown on its next offensive series, but a block-in-the-back penalty took away Dustin Basks’ scoring opportunity on a pass from Brinley Brown.
“Personal fouls and penalities are killing us,” Claremore head coach Rob Gilbreath said.
The veteran coach reiterated to his team after the game that “we can’t hurt ourselves and take points off the board.”
Running behind a seasoned offensive line — led by seniors John McQueen, Tyler Haysler, Dalton Flowers and Kelby Haulmark — Reliford tallied his second touchdown on a 1-yard run with 5:58 remaining in the first quarter. The two-point conversion run by Brown failed and Claremore led 12-7.
“We challenged the offensive line throughout the week to be able to run the ball,” Gilbreath said. “We knew the strength of Tahlequah’s defense was their line and I thought our guys did a good job of controlling the line of scrimmage.”
Tahlequah regained the 14-12 lead with 4:59 remaining in the second quarter on Brandon Conrad’s 8-yard touchdown run.
But, Claremore answered right back with Brown’s 41-yard completion to Basks that set up Reliford’s final score — a 5-yard touchdown run with 1:01 left in the first half. Brown’s two-point conversion pass to Caleb Webster sent Claremore into halftime with a 20-14 lead.
Brown completed 10-of-16 passes for 140 yards, with his top three targets — Webster, Garroutte and Basks — combining with nine receptions for 134 yards. Reliford had the other reception for 6 yards.
The District 5A-4 shootout seesawed back in Tahlequah’s favor on Dicks’ 1-yard touchdown run to open the third quarter. The extra point was blocked by Basks and the score was even at 20-20.
Claremore, once again, moved into Tahlequah territory with Brown’s 15-yard pass to Webster setting up Vincent’s 29-yard field goal that put the Zebras ahead for good at 23-20 with 5:54 left in the third quarter.
Claremore’s defense forced four Tahlequah turnovers — two interceptions by Webster and a pair of fumble recoveries.
“Those turnovers came at the right time, and took away the big play ability by Tahlequah,” Gilbreath said.
Claremore’s final touchdown, late in the fourth quarter, came on Brown’s 1-yard plunge up the middle that sealed the win for the Zebras.
“We’ll take this win, but the road to the district championship still goes through East Central,” Gilbreath said.