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Claremore running back Jace Hightower (5) scurries out of the backfield as fellow back Conner Aaron puts a block on a Wagoner defender during a half-game scrimmage last Thursday. Hightower left the exhibition with a dislocated elbow and is questionable for the Zebras’ season opener against Bartlesville tonight.

Staying healthy is every team’s main goal no matter the season or sport.

Unfortunately for Claremore football, an injury has already struck one of its best players before the season could begin.

Star senior running back Jace Hightower went down with a dislocated elbow during a half-game scrimmage against Wagoner on Aug. 29.

Claremore coach Jarrett Hurt is optimistic about a speedy recovery for the Air Force commit, but for now, he is a game-time decision.

“His dad called me (Sept. 3) and said there was not a fracture in his arm, and the cartilage was not damaged at all,” Hurt said. “He did tear a couple of ligaments and tore a tendon, so obviously that’s a concern. But I don’t think surgery is on the table at this time.”

If Hightower is unable to play tonight, the Zebras hope the combined efforts of DeShawn Kinnard and Demetrice Coronado can fill that massive hole in the backfield.

Hightower rushed for 1,138 yards and 10 touchdowns on 187 carries in 2018.

Hurt said the pair is more than capable of establishing the run game.

“We have the mentality around here of next man up,” Hurt said. “If one guy unfortunately goes down, we have to have another guy ready to go. At tailback position, we’ve got some depth there, and I think those guys are excited to get their chance and get their opportunity to show what they can do.

“We have a lot of confidence in DeShawn and Demetrice, so we’ll see what they can do Friday night if given the opportunity.”

Also look for quarterback Charlier Murdock, who threw for 1,456 yards, 15 touchdowns and nine interceptions on 121-of-229 passing, to have a big game against the Bruins.

His main targets will be Dylan Kedzior and Quentin Skinner, who combined for 884 yards and 10 touchdowns on 65 receptions a season ago.

For a more in-depth look at the game, as well as a preview for Class 3A No. 11 Verdigris’ showdown at Class 2A No. 3 Sperry, check out Progress sports editor Kevin Green’s RoCo Varsity Podcast online at claremoreprogress.com.

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