It’s Brinley Brown’s time to shine for the Claremore Zebras.
On Thursday night, Brown will make his first varsity start at quarterback in the 2013 season opener against Rogers County rival — the Oologah Mustangs.
Brown and the Zebras will kick off their home opener at 7 p.m. in what’s being deemed the final “Battle of Rogers County”.
Claremore carries a 14-7 advantage over Oologah, including 4-1 under head football coach Rob Gilbreath since 2008.
“It’s not hard to get motivated when Claremore and Oologah play,” according to Gilbreath. “You always want to beat your rival.”
Brown helped rally Claremore to a 20-13 win over the Mustangs in 2012, after taking over for injured starting quarterback Matt Whatley.
It was during that time that Brown gained the confidence of Gilbreath and his teammates.
“Brinley is a solid leader and a very coachable player,” Gilbreath said. “He knows the offense and it’s not like Thursday night will be his first rodeo. He’s played in a lot of games, so that experience is a plus going into the season.”
Helping ease the pressure on Brown’s shoulders will be three of the best wide receivers in Class 5A in seniors Caleb Webster and Hunter Garroutte, as well as junior Dustin Basks.
Webster and Basks combined for 55 catches and 878 yards with eight touchdowns in 2012, while Garroutte chipped in with seven receptions for 152 yards and two touchdowns.
“Dustin’s our playmaker and the fastest player on the team,” Gilbreath said. “We have to be able to get him the ball 10-to-12 times a game. He’s that valuable to our offense.
“Caleb’s also a big-time target at 6-3 and has soft hands, plus his greatest asset is getting those 10 to 12 yards and moving the chains.”
Gilbreath said that Oologah’s defense will line up in a 4-2-5 scheme with their best player being sophomore linebacker Jimmy McKinney (6-1, 205).
“Oologah doesn’t blitz a lot but on occasion they will bring the smoke or SAM (McKinney) by himself off the edge. Also, they will twist up front on passing downs,” Gilbreath added. “We think we can attack their secondary as they usually have two safeties and their corners playing 8 yards off the ball.”
Defensively, the Zebras will face a big, physical team led by junior quarterback Payton Craig (6-3, 185) and senior offensive linemen Tyler Base (6-4, 285) and Britton Bishop (6-4, 280).
“Oologah has the ability to score on any play,” Gilbreath said. “Their quarterback (Craig) is the coach’s son and has a lot of ability. His favorite receiver is (Breyden) DeSpain, who started for them as a freshman. Their running backs (Keim) and (McKinney) are athletic and strong. The McKinney kid is a big, athletic looking player, who has been called the sophomore phenomenon.”
Gilbreath noted that Oologah will come out fired up and playing hard.
“This is the last time that we (Claremore) will play Oologah,” Gilbreath said. “This has been a great Rogers County Rivalry and the kids and fans will always remember the last one. Hopefully, we can put this one in the record books as a victory.”