Claremore football's season opener played like a horror film.
The Zebras had numerous attempts to correct their previous mistakes, only to see promising drives end in agonizing ways.
Three interceptions. Two missed field goals. A botched extra-point attempt. Untimely penalties.
Those persistent miscues culminated in a 15-14 loss to Bartlesville at Lantow Field.
The Bruins converted two fourth downs inside the Claremore 10-yard line in the final 1:39, with the last one resulting in a touchdown on a 6-yard pass from Simian Gilkey to Rhett Foreman with 46 seconds remaining. Gilkey then found Kaden Brown for the 2-point conversion, sealing Bartlesville’s second-consecutive victory over the Zebras.
An illegal man downfield penalty negated the Bruins’ first attempt at a game-winner moments earlier after they successfully converted on a Gilkey pass to Gage Keaton.
“Our defense kept us in the game the whole night; I’m not disappointed in our defense at all for the 2-point play,” Claremore coach Jarrett Hurt said. “You never know what play it’s going to be in a game, but it definitely wasn’t that one.”
The sophomore quarterback completed 6 of 13 passes for 107 yards while also managing 76 yards rushing on 17 carries. He led Bartlesville 87 yards on that final drive after a 60-yard Claremore punt pinned him and the offense at its 13-yard line with 5:27 remaining.
Late in the drive, Austin Zink broke free for a decent gain, and a personal-foul penalty tacked to the end of the run put the Bruins inside the red zone at the 16. Zink finished with 45 yards on 16 touches.
It was a disappointing finale for the Claremore defense, which looked exceptional in limiting Bartlesville to 230 total yards on 52 plays while also forcing a turnover near midfield early in the fourth.
The Zebras couldn’t capitalize on the fumble recovery, though, turning the ball over on downs just plays later.
That was one of several missed opportunities for the Claremore offense, which saw several drives in Bruins territory end with no points.
In the first half alone, the Zebras reached the Bartlesville 30, 12 and 19 but had nothing to show for it thanks to a pair of interceptions and a missed field goal.
“I feel like in the first half we had a lot of opportunities in the red zone, and we just couldn’t punch it in and get points when we got down there and had them on their heels a little bit,” Hurt said. “I feel like that might’ve been the difference in the game right there. Us not taking advantage of our opportunities in the first half.”
The second half featured more of the same, though.
Braxton Etheridge tossed a 20-yard touchdown pass to Ethan Grimett on the first drive of the second half, but a penalty wiped out the score. Moments later, Hunter Wood’s 35-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left.
The next possession ended in frustration as well, with Bartlesville defensive back Logan Vaclaw intercepting Etheridge near the red zone.
However, Claremore finally caught a break when the Bruins’ punter booted the ball off an offensive lineman and gave the Zebras possession at the 11. One play later, David Lozoya dashed into the end zone to give Claremore a 14-7 lead with 50 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
Lozoya had himself a game, scoring the Zebras’ only two touchdowns while averaging 6.4 yards per carry on the way to a 160-yard outing. His 22-yard score at the 9:26 mark of the first quarter gave his team a 6-0 lead.
Claremore’s fortune ran out after his second score, though, for both of its fourth-quarter possessions ended in turnovers on downs.
Etheridge, a sophomore who shared quarterbacking duties with Scout Cutsinger, threw some well-placed deep passes in the final seconds in an attempt to steal the victory late, but they all fell incomplete.
He threw for 43 yards and two interceptions on 2-of-10 passing while Cutsinger went 0-of-5 with an interception, which came seconds before halftime after Lozoya rumbled 57 yards to the Bartlesville 18.
“I was proud of both those guys being ready to go,” Hurt said of his QB duo. “I thought they both did some good things tonight. Braxton throws the ball well, and he believes in himself. Scout believes in himself as well.”