When Claremore’s passing attack is able to spread the field, good things happen.
Claremore’s passing offense relinquishes the pressure on the ground game and drives opposing defenses crazy.
In 11 games this season, Claremore junior quarterback Matt Whatley has made great strides in the passing game, and raised his statistics tremendously since the 2011 season.
The key to Whatley’s success through the air can best be attributed to a solid receiving corp — led by junior Caleb Webster and sophomore Dustin Basks.
Webster has 34 receptions with 521 yards and five touchdowns, while Basks counters with 18 catches for 302 yards and two touchdowns.
The other starting receiver in Claremore’s spread offense — junior Hunter Garroutte — has seven receptions for 152 yards and two touchdowns.
According to Claremore head football coach Rob Gilbreath, “When you look at Carl Albert’s defense, they are good up front and at linebacker, but their secondary is very average. Carl Albert does a great job of swarming to the ball and they will blitz quite a bit. Plus, they are pretty good on stopping the run.”
If Carl Albert focuses on the run and shutting down starting tailback Jordan Cunningham, who has 163 carries for 810 yards and eight touchdowns, then Whatley should have a huge game passing.
Claremore’s passing offense flourished in big games with Whatley completing 12-of-22 passes for 157 and two touchdowns in the Zebras 21-20 overtime win over McAlester.
Then, in a 35-25 win over Coweta, Whatley was 7-of-13 for 154 yards and two touchdowns.
Last week in the first round of the playoffs, Whatley completed 7-of-11 passes for 87 yards and two touchdowns as Claremore defeated Tulsa Memorial 35-26.
Webster, a 6-foot-3, 180-pound receiver, caught nine passes for 98 yards and had two touchdowns against McAlester. He also had four receptions for 83 yards and a touchdowns in the Zebras’ win over Coweta.
Memorial, though, held Webster in check with one reception for eight yards.
“We need Caleb to really step up this Friday, and allow our passing game to take off,” Gilbreath said. “He has the ability to make some really big catches in big games, and also take some the pressure off Dustin and Hunter.”
In order for Claremore’s offense to succeed, Gilbreath said the Zebras have to continue to be balanced.
“We must establish our run game and pass when we have to,” Gilbreath added. “I look for it to be another close game and we have won a lot of those close ones this year.”