Claremore Daily Progress

Sports

September 6, 2012

Will Whatley start at QB?

Claremore signal-caller fights off ankle injury, ready to play Miami

CLAREMORE — Claremore head football coach Rob Gilbreath breathed a sigh of relief over the weekend when an ankle injury to his starting quarterback Matt Whatley wasn’t that severe.

Late in the second quarter of the season-opening 20-13 win over Oologah, Whatley had his ankle stepped on by an offensive lineman and forced the two-year starter to spend the second half on crutches.

On Monday, during the JV football game, Gilbreath said that Whatley is doing fine and will be able to go against Miami on Friday night.

“He probably won’t play much on defense, but he will play on offense,” Gilbreath said.

If Whatley can’t go and has reoccurring pain in his ankle, Gilbreath said he has faith in backup quarterback Brinley Brown to get the job done.

Brown came in after Whatley went down with less than a minute left in the first half last Thursday and led the Zebras into the end zone for a 20-6 halftime lead over Oologah.

“Our game plan, as long as we had the lead with Brinley at quarterback, was to run the football and take time off the clock,” Gilbreath said. “We wanted to get it very simple and out of their hands, because their ‘big’ offensive linemen can wear you down in a hurry.”

Whatley, who took over the Zebra starting quarterback duties midway through his freshmen season in 2010, showed flashes of maturity early in the first half with pin-point accuracy to junior wide receiver Caleb Webster.

Whatley and Webster connected for a 47-yard gain in the first quarter to set up a Zebra scoring opportunity which resulted in one of two field goals for sophomore placekicker Jared Vincent.

“Matt has really raised his level of play since that freshman season,” Gilbreath said. “We’ve seen more leadership from him and his passing and speed have really improved.”

Before getting injured, Whatley had completed 3-of-3 passes for 84 yards. He also had eight carries for seven yards.

On Friday, though, Whatley and the Zebras will be seeking ‘redemption’ after losing 14-13 in overtime to Miami last season.

The Zebras face a Miami squad that will be looking its first win of the season after falling to Class 5A Grove, 26-13, in its opener.

“Miami is going to be a tough opponent on the road,” Gilbreath said. “They had chances to beat Grove, but turnovers got them.”

Offensively, the Wardogs return five starters including junior quarterback Sawyer Pooler (6-1, 180) and junior tight end Wyatt Rathjen (6-3, 240).

Pooler had five touchdowns and passed for 568 yards in 2011.

Offensive lineman Jeff Johnson (6-2, 240) also returns to open holes for senior running back Dakota Harwood (5-11, 190).

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