Claremore Daily Progress

Sports

August 30, 2012

Claremore, Oologah clash in 'Battle of Rogers County'

QB Payton Craig makes first varsity start for Mustangs

CLAREMORE — Bragging rights will be on the line when Claremore and Oologah grind it out on the gridiron tonight in the 2012 season opener.

Claremore and Oologah will kick off at 7 p.m. at Mustang Stadium.

“It’s not hard to get motivated when Claremore and Oologah play,” Zebra head coach Rob Gilbreath said. “You always want to beat your rival and a win would get our season started off right.”

In Gilbreath’s past four seasons as the Zebras head coach, he is 3-1 against the Mustangs.

Claremore defeated Oologah, 14-13 in the 2011 opener between the two rival schools at Lantow Field.

However, the table turned in Oologah’s favor when the Mustangs hosted Claremore in 2010.

Oologah’s stingy defense held Claremore scoreless in a 16-0 victory.

Gilbreath said the key to Claremore’s success against Oologah is to not let the Mustangs control the line of scrimmage and clock with their massive offensive line.

Oologah’s front five are the bread-and-butter of the offense, which is led by first-year starting quarterback Payton Craig. Anchoring the Mustangs in the trenches is seniors Sam Noble (6-4, 285) and Aaron Thompson (6-0, 290) as well as junior Tyler Base (6-3, 290).

“Oologah will try to have those 20-play drives and wear you down with their line,” Gilbreath said. “Defensively, we have to create turnovers and put pressure on their young quarterback.”

Offensively, Gilbreath said the Zebras are as deep as they have ever been in a while at the running back position.

Jordan Cunningham returns at tailback, after rushing for more than 700 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2011.

Also, junior quarterback Matt Whatley is back for his third year.

“Matt is definitely the full package this season,” Gilbreath said. “His speed is faster, he’s bigger (20 pounds heavier) and he’s really playing with a lot more confidence.”

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