TULSA — For one quarter Friday night, Claremore outplayed the defending Class 5A football champion.
Had two close plays gone Claremore's way, the Zebras could have led top-ranked East Central at halftime.
Football, however, is a game that consists of four quarters. Two halves.
As a result, it proved to be a long evening for the Zebras as East Central clubbed Claremore, 56-14, at the East Tulsa Sports Complex.
The Cardinals showed why they are still rated No. 1. They turned away Claremore's early threat by scoring eight unanswered touchdowns.
In the eight scoring plays, East Central covered 241 yards.
Kenneth Session, a 210-pound running back, and wide receiver Corey Taylor, 190, each scored three touchdowns while quarterback Brooklyn Fox threw three TD passes.
The Cardinals improved to 8-0 and stand 5-0 in District 5A-4. Claremore fell to 1-7 and 1-4.
Still, the Zebras pulled off something no other team has managed this season. They had East Central down, 14-0, before the Cardinals' first offensive down of the game.
Taking the opening kickoff, Claremore needed only eight plays to cover 68 yards with running back Timmy Butcher scoring from the five. Zebra quarterback Blake Grauer hit three different receivers with passes for 14, 15, and 20 yards on the successful drive.
Butcher, who finished with 80 rushing on 21 carries, and 31 additional yards on Grauer passes, came back with a 19-yard run and a second score.
Following the first touchdown, East Central fumbled the kickoff and the ball was recovered by Colton Hinds at the Cardinal 33.
The Zebras ran three plays for a first down and threw an incomplete pass before calling on Butcher again. The junior running back started around right end, then cut back to the middle for the final 11 yards.
Claremore's scoring was over. A couple of near misses were left, but the Zebras would not cross the goal line again.
After East Central used a 35-yard Fox TD pass to Session to break Claremore's spell, the Zebras appeared to be marching toward a third score. Aided by a pair of 15-yard Cardinal penalties, the Zebras moved from their 35 to the opposite 15. On second and seven, Jesse Bickell picked up 11 yards before losing the ball on a fumble. East Central's Dehrian Wilson fell on it.
East Central, spearheaded by a 52-yard carry by Session on the following play, tied the score at 14 nine plays later.
Session put on an impressive performance. He accounted for 221 all-purpose yards and had touchdowns from 35, 14, and 47 yards.
His 47-yard carry put the Cardinals on top 21-14 with 4:02 left in the half.
Claremore had one more shot left.
Starting at their 20, Grauer passed to Eric Buck for 17 yards, Chris Bottoms for 26, and Butcher for 26. This put the ball at the East Central 14. On second and 10, Grauer threw to Ryan Foster deep in the end zone. The high throw was caught, but Foster was two steps beyond the back line.
On the next play, Grauer went to Bottoms in the left corner and the double-guarded senior saw the ball knocked away at the last moment.
Cory Jefferis, kicking Claremore's two earlier conversion points, then attempted a 31-yard field goal. It was partially blocked and was wide to the left.
The second half was strictly a No. 1 team against a team with one win.
East Central roared back with three third-quarter scores and added two more in the final period.
Taylor matched Session's trio of first-half touchdowns with three of his own in the second. He caught a 53-yard strike from Fox, ran 42 yards for another, then teamed with Fox for a 14-yard score.
Defensive back Marquis Beauchamp returned an intercepted pass for 54 yards and a touchdown with 1:42 to go in the third.
The Cardinal starters departed after Taylor made the score 49-14.
In the end, it was East Central's blinding speed and athleticism that meant the difference. The ability to score on big plays certainly didn't hurt. The Cardinals had 472 total yards to Claremore's 262. Session rushed for a game high 175 yards on 15 carries.
Each team lost one of three fumbles and each picked off a pass. Despite the score, Claremore almost matched East Central in first downs, 17-18. The Cardinals lost 90 yards on 10 penalties while the Zebras were flagged three times for 15 yards.
EAST CENTRAL 56, CLAREMORE 14
Claremore 14 0 0 0 — 14
East Central 7 14 21 14 — 56
Claremore — Butcher 5 run (Jefferis kick)
Claremore — Butcher 19 run (Jefferis kick)
EC — Session 35 pass from Fox (Eason kick)
EC — Session 14 run (Eason kick)
EC — Session 47 run (Eason kick)
EC — Taylor 53 pass from Fox (Eason kick)
EC — Taylor 42 run (Eason kick)
EC — Beauchamp 54 pass interception (Eason kick)
EC — Taylor 14 pass from Fox (Eason kick)
EC — Hamilton 2 run (Eason kick)