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Claremore receiver races down the field for a touchdown during Senior Night against Pryor on Friday at Lantow Field.

Rivalries are all about mind games, and Dylan Kedzior knew exactly how to get in Pryor’s head.

Prior to Senior Night, Kedzior and the other 24 Claremore seniors were asked about their favorite high school memories.

The answers were revealed on Friday night during a pregame ceremony honoring the future graduates, and Kedzior’s was a dandy.

Beating Pryor … tonight.

It was a risky strategy considering the game had yet to kickoff, but his prophesied memory became reality as the Zebras secured a playoff berth with a 45-26 win over the Tigers in the Battle of Highway 20 at Lantow Field.

“I started thinking about it, and I thought, ‘You know what, let’s just show Pryor what’s up,” said Kedzior, who caught four passes for 98 yards and two touchdowns. “I knew they wouldn’t like it — I wouldn’t like it that much — but it’s kind of a mind game, too.

“It’s part of it.”

He sprung loose on a pair of screen passes from senior quarterback Charlie Murdock, catching the ball at or behind the line of scrimmage before displaying his blistering 4.25-second 40 speed for scores of 40 and 48 yards.

The latter gave Claremore a 38-26 lead with two seconds remaining in the third quarter.

DeShawn Kinnard, who tallied four receptions for 76 yards and two touchdowns, scored from 57 yards out on a play of that variety as well with 8:25 left in the fourth.

The screen pass has been a go-to for Claremore all season, but not even Murdock expected the success experienced.

Murdock finished with 214 yards and four touchdowns on 16-of-23 passing despite tossing an interception in the second quarter.

“We didn’t practice it much at all this week at practice,” Murdock said. “But once we found what worked, we just stuck with it.”

The Zebras implemented the screen pass to create openings for the running game, and Jace Hightower certainly reaped the benefits.

Hightower, a senior, rushed for 168 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries, but his night ended on a negative note.

He managed only seven carries for 37 yards in the second half before leaving the game with a hip injury. For now, his status is unknown.

Kinnard filled in for Hightower the rest of the way and ran for 76 yards on 12 carries.

For Hightower, it was a bittersweet end to his final game at Lantow Field.

“I’m happy for the team, but I wish I could’ve played a little more,” Hightower said. “It killed me to have to sit on the side in possibly my last game on the field. I was trying to jog and run on the sideline, and I stayed in for a drive and a half after the injury occurred, but I really couldn’t even run.

“I want to be out there more than anything, but I’m no help if I can’t run.”

Luckily for Claremore, the defense made Hightower’s absence seem nearly inconsequential.

After allowing 20 points and 251 yards total — 146 rushing, 104 passing — in the first half, the defense bowed up and held the Tigers to six points and 136 yards, including only 12 yards rushing, in the second half.

Jacob Wood led Pryor on the ground with 104 yards rushing and a touchdown while also snagging four receptions for 100 yards and a score.

Tigers quarterback Trapper Gilstrap completed 12 of 20 passes for 229 yards, connecting with Wood, Garrett Mitchell and Josh Gore for touchdown throws of 52, 21 and 19 yards.

Zebras coach Jarrett Hurt said his team simply wore Pryor down.

“I thought they were tired at halftime, and our guys toughed it out in the second half, dug down deep and got it done,” Hurt said. “Our seniors beat them all three years of their high school career, and they punched their ticket to the playoffs for the third-straight year.

“That’s a huge accomplishment for our senior class.”

Murdock was impressed with the defense’s intensity in the second half as well.

“That’s one of the things I love about my stepdad (Kevin Smith) being the defensive coordinator,” Murdock said. “We gotta work together. The defense played with a lot of energy, and it was fun to watch.”

The victory guarantees Claremore (5-4, 4-2 District 5A-4) a spot in the playoffs, which begin Nov. 15.

Even if Skiatook and Pryor earn their 15 district points against their respective Week 10 opponents — East Central and Memorial — and the Zebras lose to undefeated Tahlequah by at least 15 points, they will finish fourth with the Bulldogs taking the third slot.

Pending a major upset, Pryor is eliminated from playoff contention despite defeating Skiatook, 38-30, in the district opener on Sept. 27.

“It was huge to get our 15 (district points) tonight, and it’s huge to beat Pryor any year,” Hurt said.

“I don’t care if we’re 0-10 or they’re 0-10 or what the records are; it’s a big win for the City of Claremore and for our school.”

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