OOLOGAH — DeShawn Kinnard didn’t lead on that this game meant something special to him.
However, it was clear from his demeanor in the second half. He literally owes his life to the Claremore-Oologah rivalry.
After all, it was the chance meeting of his parents — Tiffany Dee and Eli Kinnard — at the Battle of Rogers County in 2000 that led to his existence. He might’ve never been born otherwise.
“They actually met right after the game,” DeShawn Kinnard said. “My dad asked my mom to go out, and the rest is history.”
DeShawn Kinnard showed his appreciation for that encounter by representing his mother and father to the best of his ability Friday night, rushing for 276 yards and three touchdowns on 20 carries to lead Claremore past Oologah in a 28-20 classic at Mustang Stadium.
He racked up 216 of those yards in the second half alone, scoring on runs of 8, 82 and 78 yards. At halftime, he had eight carries for 60 yards as Claremore trailed 14-7.
The Zebras (1-1) had only 115 yards at the break but finished with 404 yards thanks to DeShawn Kinnard’s efforts. All their yards came on the ground.
“I had to come out and do better than I did in the first,” said DeShawn Kinnard, who carried the ball five times for 53 yards and an 8-yard touchdown on Claremore’s opening drive of the second half. “Obviously, how we were playing in the first wasn’t getting it done, so we went in there, talked each other up and came out better than we came in.”
His performance went beyond even those stats, though.
If not for a pair of untimely holding penalties in the middle quarters, he would’ve had a second 82-yard touchdown run in addition to a 45-yard score. Those runs could've propelled him over the 400-yard mark.
He credited his teammates for keeping him calm after those frustrating plays.
“They kept my head up, and they kept me wanting to keep on doing better,” DeShawn Kinnard said. “It probably would’ve been a whole lot different if it weren’t for them.”
His final carry, a 78-yard touchdown dash along the east sideline, came on third-and-7 with 2:02 remaining as Claremore clung to a 21-20 lead.
It was the perfect way to cap a memorable second-half performance for the senior.
“I was just thinking, ‘I gotta get this; I gotta get this,’” DeShawn Kinnard said. “I was determined, and when I bounced out and saw Beau (Parsons) had that block, I was like, ‘Oh, it’s over.’ Once I saw that hole, I took off.”
SMALLWOOD SNAGS THREE INTERCEPTIONS
Noah Smallwood popped to his feet and signaled the number “3” with his right hand.
With 36 seconds remaining, the junior pulled down his third interception of the night -- this one in the end zone -- to prevent a possible overtime period.
Smallwood, who is also the Claremore starting quarterback, was understandably ecstatic.
“I knew they were going to throw the ball deep, so I just stayed over the top of it and became a ball hawk and went and got it,” Smallwood said. “I was struggling throwing the ball, so I had to pick it up on the other side of the ball.”
His gutsy performance made up for his lack of success throwing the ball, for he failed to complete a pass on 11 attempts.
Smallwood did, however, tally 114 yards rushing and a touchdown on 14 carries. His 46-yard score trimmed the Zebras' deficit to 14-7 with less than a minute remaining in the first half.
But it was his defensive presence that set him apart.
Smallwood made a diving catch at the 1-yard line on Oologah’s opening possession for his first interception, and he picked off Blake Salt again early in the fourth with the Mustangs driving in Claremore territory.
The Zebras forced four turnovers in all, each of which came when Oologah was in striking distance of the end zone.
“We preach turnovers,” Claremore coach Jarrett Hurt said. “We have a turnover chain on the sideline every game, and our defense rose to the challenge. The coaches had a good plan, they didn’t quit, they didn’t panic, they stuck with the plan and our kids executed it. You gotta have turnovers to win big games, and I’m just so proud of our guys for making those plays at the right time.”
If that weren’t enough, the Mustangs had first-and-goal at the 1-yard line late in the fourth quarter but couldn’t get in the end zone, and they ended up missing a 25-yard field goal that would’ve give them a 23-21 lead with 2:24 remaining.
It was a frustrating (and somewhat nightmarish) result for Salt and the Oologah offense, which outgained the Zebras 529-404.
Oologah also lost a fumble on its second possession of the game.
Mustangs coach Darrin Wegner said his team could’ve held a 28-0 halftime lead if not for the turnovers and other miscues. It did eventually gain a 14-0 advantage on an Aidan Trimble 7-yard run and a 90-yard touchdown strike from Salt to Devin Ankerich, but it wasn’t enough to hold off Claremore.
Salt completed 18 of 29 passes for 369 yards while throwing a pair of scores to Ankerich, who finished with 191 yards receiving on seven catches.
The duo’s 41-yard touchdown connection at the 3:02 mark of the third quarter nearly tied the game at 21, but the ensuing extra point went wide.
It was yet another missed opportunity to regain the momentum.
“Claremore is a good team – their kids fought back – but we really feel like we wasted some opportunities in the first half,” Wegner said. “I feel like we’re a pretty good offense, but the bottom line is we have to finish stuff. We’re disappointed in ourselves, and obviously we need to come out to practice and get stuff cleaned up.”