Slippery, shaky and smooth ... Claremore running back Derrick Reliford is one tough ‘Zebra’ to bring down.
Reliford re-energized the Claremore running attack with 164 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the Zebras’ 42-19 win over the Miami Wardogs Friday night in a non-conference battle at Lantow Field.
The win over Miami improved the Class 5A No. 10 Zebras to 2-0 on the season and sets up a ‘huge’ showdown on the road this Friday on the road against the Class 5A No. 2 McAlester Buffaloes.
“The big difference tonight was the play of our fullback and the offensive line,” Claremore head coach Rob Gilbreath said.
Reliford and senior fullback Dhalton Horsman combined for 228 of Claremore’s 330 rushing yards and totaled three touchdowns.
Running behind the experience of Claremore senior left tackle John McQueen, who is receiving NCAA Division I attention from Memphis, and Kelby Haulmark, Reliford and Horsman pounded the Miami defense and helped Claremore build a 17-0 lead in the first quarter.
Claremore took a 3-0 lead early in the first quarter on Jared Vincent’s 37-yard field goal with 7:56 remaining.
A strong defensive stand, led by linebackers Bear Hope and Gage Meisinger, gave Claremore a short field to work with on its ensuing series.
Going 11 plays on 57 yards, aided by Reliford’s hard-nose running and Hope ‘hurdling’ a Miami defender for an 8-yard gain, Claremore quarterback Brinley Brown called his own number and bulldozed his way into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown that put the Zebras ahead 10-0 with 1:57 left in the first quarter.
“Our offensive line won the battle in the trenches and overpowerd Miami,” Gilbreath said. “Plus, our defensive effort was outstanding, resulting in a shorter field to play on offensively.”
Moments later, Brown’s 52-yard touchdown pass to Caleb Webster capped off a 3-play, 55-yard drive that increased Claremore’s lead to 17-0.
Claremore tallied a 3-yard touchdown by Reliford and got a safety in the second quarter to carry a 25-0 lead into halftime.
In the third quarter, Vincent continued his perfect streak with a 28-yard field goal that put Claremore ahead 28-0.
Then, with 4:16 remaining, Reliford’s 6-yard touchdown run — following a crucial 15-yard gain by Brown — pushed Claremore’s lead to 35-0.
Miami, however, took advantage of one of three Claremore fumbles in the second half, to score on a 21-yard pass from Sawyer Pooler to Ty Mercer that cut the deficit to 35-7 with 0:06 left in the third quarter.
Claremore’s second fumble that opened the fourth quarter resulted in Pooler’s 30-yard touchdown pass to Mercer. Dustin Basks blocked the extra point as Miami cut the margin to 35-13.
Moments later, with 5:17 remaining, Miami’s Dylan Hall returned a fumble 81 yards for a touchdown that made it 35-19.
Claremore’s final touchdown — Horsman’s 3-yard run — capped off a 9-play, 53-yard drive with 0:58 left in the game.
Offensively, Brown completed 5-of-10 passes for 80 yards with one touchdown and an interception. Through the air, Webster caught one pass for 52 yards, Basks had one catch for 13 yards, Hunter Garroutte had two catches for 8 yards and Horsman had one reception for 7 yards.