When it comes to Lantow Field, Dustin Basks saves his best performances for the home turf.
In front of his biggest supporter — Jesalyn Nelson — Basks gave the 23-year-old Zebra fan a ‘Heisman Trophy’ performance that will forever be remembered for many years to come.
Basks accounted for three touchdowns — a 24-yard pass reception, a 34-yard run and a 94-yard kickoff return — to not only spark the Zebras past Coweta, 31-24; but also guarantee Claremore a 5A playoff berth for the second-straight year.
“Dustin’s our biggest playmaker and tonight he came up huge,” Claremore head coach Rob Gilbreath said. “His 94-yard kickoff return to start the second half was the spark we needed in a must-win game that got us into the playoffs.”
While Basks shined on offense, his junior defensive catalyst Bear Hope was relentless and aggressive for four strong quarters.
Claremore’s offense tallied 312 total yards and carried a 28-10 lead into the fourth quarter, thus giving the outgoing seniors a night to remember in their final home game.
Basks opened the first quarter scoring with a 24-yard touchdown reception from senior quarterback Brinley Brown and Jared Vincent booted the extra point as Claremore led 7-0.
Coweta, however, countered on its first offensive possession marching 80 yards on five plays with Caleb Wheeler converting the 11-yard touchdown run to even the score at 7-7.
After Basks recovered the fumble inside the Coweta 35-yard line, the junior receiver lined up in the ‘Wildcat’ formation and sprinted 34 yards untouched for a touchdown that swung the momentum back in favor of Claremore at 14-7.
“We had been working all week on getting Dustin involved in the Wildcat, and the first time we run it, he goes the distance,” Gilbreath said.
When the ball is in Basks hands, good things happen for the Zebras.
Basks continued his impressive performance early in the third quarter with a 94-yard kickoff return that put Claremore up 21-7.
“I can’t believe they (Coweta) kicked it to him (Basks),” Gilbreath said. “But, I’m glad they did.”
The kickoff return was Basks’ third on the season and propeled him to 197 all-purpose yards in the game.
Claremore’s defense, according to Gilbreath, rose to occasion on crucial fourth-down stops in the red-zone.
The fierce play of senior cornerback Caleb Webster and junior linebacker Nathan Garwick held Coweta to a 27-yard field goal that trimmed Claremore’s lead 21-10 in the third quarter.
Claremore’s Brown connected with Webster on the Zebras’ ensuing offensive series for a 45-yard touchdown reception that extended the lead to 28-10 with 18 seconds left in the third quarter.
“Dustin and Caleb (Webster) made some big-time plays on both sides of the ball in crucial situations,” Gilbreath said.
Vincent’s 43-yard field goal to open the fourth quarter increased the Claremore lead to 31-10.
Coweta, however, wouldn’t go away lightly as the Tigers tallied 14 points in the final 10 minutes.
Gilbreath said he was proud of his team’s effort and getting the playoff berth.
“It’s good to be back in the win column,” he said to his team after the game. “We’ve got to keep this thing rolling and carry that momentum into the playoffs.
“Tonight, we beat a team (Coweta) that is as good or better than our last two opponents (Pryor and Central).”