‘Show no mercy...’
Seven weeks into the season, that’s the message Claremore defensive coordinator Jarrett Hurtt has instilled into his ‘Wrecking Crew’ defense.
And, by the end of Friday’s 31-7 thrashing of the Pryor Tigers, the mission was accomplished.
“Our main goal all week was to stop 24 (Smallwood),” Claremore junior free safety Hunter Garroutte said.
Smallwood, who entered the Rogers-Mayes County rivalry with 1,053 rushing yards on 126 carries and 18 touchdowns, was kept in check by a feisty Zebra defense that held Pryor’s ground attack well below its average at 152 yards.
The Tigers’ tailback scored Pryor’s only touchdown — a 34-yard run in the second quarter that cut Claremore’s lead to 14-7 going into halftime.
“We knew if Smallwood got going, he could be a game-changer,” Claremore head coach Rob Gilbreath said. “...Just last week, he had 382 yards and six touchdowns on Grove.”
But, against the Zebras defense, he hobbled off the field in the third quarter after punishing hits from Claremore linebackers Gage Meisinger, Baron Hope and Jordan Cunningham and never returned.
“Shutting down Smallwood was a big momentum boost,” Gilbreath said.
Big enough that Claremore’s defense helped fuel the Zebras’ offensive explosion in the second half.
Clinging to a 14-7 lead — thanks to Brycen Short’s 7-yard touchdown run and Hunter Garroutte’s 21-yard touchdown pass from Matt Whatley in the second quarter — the Zebras rolled off 17 unanswered points in the final 24 minutes.
According to Gilbreath, “In the locker room at halftime, I told the team that we didn’t want to have another third quarter like we did last week at East Central. We had to come out and set the tone early.”
And, did they (Zebras) ever, especially with a smash-mouth running game — led by sophomore tailback Derrick Reliford.
“We’ve been waiting for Derrick (Reliford) to have that breakout game,” Gilbreath said. “And tonight, he ran hard and was able to get in the end zone.”
Reliford led the Claremore running game with 13 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown.
Claremore’s ability to run at will against Pryor’s defense helped open up the passing game for Whatley.
After Whatley’s first touchdown pass — a 21-yarder to Garroutte in the second quarter — the junior signal-caller connected with senior fullback James Chester on a 7-yard screen pass down the right sideline. Jared Vincent converted the extra point and Claremore jumped out to a 21-7 lead.
Gilbreath said that Chester’s touchdown was set up because of Dustin Basks’ huge punt return that got the Zebras inside Pryor’s 45-yard line.
“We get a big lift from Dustin on special teams, and then (James) Chester’s able to rumble for down the sideline, I knew then that we were ready to take the game over,” Gilbreath added.
Claremore’s defense forced three Pryor turnovers — interceptions by Hope and Garroutte and a fumble recovery by Cunningham — and held the Tigers to 282 total offensive yards.
The momentum continued to stay in Claremore’s favor when Reliford’s 32-yard burst behind the blocking of Sean Pogue and John McQueen set up his 2-yard touchdown run with 8.1 seconds remaining in the third quarter to put the Zebras ahead 28-7.
Claremore sealed the deal with 7:30 left in the game on Vincent’s 28-yard field goal.
Zebra defense punishes Tigers, RB Smallwood injured in 3rd quarter
‘Show no mercy...’
Patel named RSU men's basketball assistant coach
Rogers State University head men’s basketball coach Justin Barkley named Vinay Patel the new assistant men’s basketball coach on Monday.
“I am very excited about bringing Vinay on board,” Barkley said. “He brings invaluable experience to the program as he is a well-respected recruiter and his NCAA Division II resume is a perfect fit as we continue our transition to become a full-NCAA Division II member.”
Verdigris senior point guard Baileigh O’Dell capped off a stellar four-year prep basketball career with Tulsa World 2nd-Team All-State recognition.
O’Dell, a 5-foot-5 floor general that will compete for the Lamar University Lady Cardinals in the Southland Conference next season, was one of five girls basketball players from Rogers County to earn All-State accolades.
Claremore senior point guard Kaleigh Cox, Inola senior point guard Lexi Williams, Verdigris senior guard Caitlyn Hanslovan and Verdigris freshman forward Keara Battenfield were named to the honorable mention squad.
SOCCER: Lady Zebras ranked 4th in Class 5A poll
Strong senior leadership and a talented core of underclassmen have kept the Claremore Lady Zebras on a nine-game winning streak since falling in the season opener.
Senior midfielder Katelin Teter and senior defenders Jentry Cruce and Anna McGuire have the Lady Zebras playing their best soccer in the closing week of the regular season.
Behind Teter, Cruce and McGuire, as well as other seniors Bailey Bacon and Emily Parkinson, the Lady Zebras (9-1) are currently ranked No. 4 overall in the Class 5A girls soccer state poll.
BASEBALL: Claremore splits series with Collinsville
The moment Claremore senior catcher Matt Whatley got thrown out at home plate in the top of first inning, it was downhill for the Zebras.
Collinsville took advantage of six Claremore errors and erupted for 17 hits to thump the Zebras, 15-2 Friday afternoon in Metro Lakes Conference play.
BASEBALL: Catoosa’s Brown holds off Ft. Gibson
Nick Brown twirled a four-hitter and Catoosa held firm defensively with the game on the line, powering the Indians to a 4-3 victory over Fort Gibson Saturday on Senior Day.
RSU's Law silences UT-Permian Basin
The Rogers State University baseball team dropped game one of a Heartland Conference series at Texas-Permian Basin, 2-0, but battled back to split the twin bill Friday with a 7-1 victory in the night cap.
Southern Mississippi searching for new basketball coach
Southern Mississippi athletic director Bill McGillis thought basketball coach Donnie Tyndall might not last long as the team kept winning games.
Kentucky's Julius Randle enters NBA Draft
Kentucky forward Julius Randle took a lot of time and talked to a lot of people before deciding to leave after one season for the NBA draft, where he is expected to be among the top five selections.
BIG TEN MBB: Illinois player Darius Paul arrested
University of Illinois police say basketball player Darius Paul faces preliminary charges of resisting a peace officer and unlawful consumption of alcohol by a minor.
SEC MEN'S BB: Tennessee hires Southern Mississippi's Donnie Tyndall
Tennessee's coaching position had just become available when Donnie Tyndall received a text message urging him to pursue the job.
- More Sports Headlines
- Patel named RSU men's basketball assistant coach