Somewhere within the aftermath of the festivities at Lantow Field on Friday night, the East Central football team laid beaten and battered.
To commemorate Homecoming, Claremore pillaged the visiting Cardinals with ease, storming to a 55-15 victory to end a three-game losing streak.
Here are five takeaways from the game:
1. Behold King Kedzior
There is a new king of the Claremore jungle, and his name is Dylan Kedzior.
After being officially coronated as the Homecoming King before the game, it didn’t take the senior long to implement his will on both sides of the ball.
Kedzior didn’t hear the fans in the visiting stands hollering to, “Watch out for No. 3”, and even if East Central coaches and players took heed of that advice, it wouldn’t have mattered.
He couldn’t be contained.
Kedzior caught five passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns. He also returned an interception 66 yards for a touchdown, earning himself some new swagger in the form of the turnover chain to go along with his king’s crown.
“I just went out there, and my teammates hyped me up and got me motivated to go,” Kedzior said. “The rest is history.”
Kedzior scored on catches of 51 and 30 yards, and he came just shy of adding a third receiving touchdown.
With less than five minutes to play in the first quarter, Kedzior caught a deep pass from quarterback Charlie Murdock before stumbling to the 1-yard line for a gain of 41 yards.
“I thought I was in right there, but who knows,” Kedzior said. “I could be a little bias.”
For Kedzior, it was the perfect way to cap a special day that included a pep assembly, the homecoming parade, his pregame coronation and of course, the football game itself.
“It’s awesome,” Kedzior said. “The City of Claremore just comes together. The community does so well with that and makes an awesome homecoming experience. It’s really humbling seeing all the attention, especially from little kids and how they look up to you. A lot of people don’t realize that, and it’s just awesome.”
2. Sherl honors brother with play
Even with all the pageantry of homecoming surrounding him for most of the day, Brooks Sherl’s mind was elsewhere.
Just a day earlier, his younger brother, Gannon, suffered a serious concussion during the freshman football game and had to be rushed to the hospital, where he has been ever since the accident.
“The last time I saw him, he was passed out,” Sherl said. “He couldn’t talk, and he couldn’t move.”
Leaving his brother in that state to go play a football game was a difficult decision to make, but he certainly honored Gannon with his performance.
The highlight of Sherl’s night came when he returned a punt 64 yards for a touchdown with about three minutes remaining in the first half.
Upon retrieving the ball at the Claremore 36-yard line, Sherl moved quickly to his left before cutting right to split two Cardinal defenders.
He then angled back to the left and outran several East Central players down the north sideline, slicing right at the 15-yard line and back straight again moments prior to diving into the end zone with a defender on his back.
Unfortunately, the outstanding play was negated by a personal foul penalty.
It would’ve been the first special-teams touchdown of his career.
“I didn’t see a foul, but when I got in the end zone, I was so excited,” Sherl said. “Then when I heard the foul happened, I just couldn’t believe it. I didn’t expect it.”
However, that was only a minor setback for the junior.
Sherl converted the Zebras’ two-point conversion attempt after Kedzior’s pick-six earlier in the quarter, and he followed that up on the next drive with an 11-yard touchdown reception from Murdock.
Those were Sherl’s only two catches of the night, though only one goes on the stat sheet.
“I wanted to make (Gannon) proud, I wanted to make my family proud and I wanted to make my team proud,” Sherl said. “I feel like I came close to doing that.”
3. Murdock efficient again
Murdock hasn’t felt this good in quite some time.
Four weeks to be exact.
That was the last time he threw multiple touchdowns in a victory, and Murdock and his powerful arm were back on Friday night doing what they do best — delivering Claremore to the win column.
Murdock led the Zebras down the field with ease on the team’s opening drive, completing three of four passes for 61 yards, capped by a quick 51-yard scoring strike to Kedzior on play No. 4.
That was only the beginning for the senior, for he would go on to finish with 255 yards and five touchdowns on 13-of-19 passing.
He completed passes to seven receivers, four of which (Kedzior, Sherl, Thomas Mason and DeShawn Kinnard) came away with touchdowns on throws of 51, 22, 11, 13 and 30 yards, respectively.
All that success came despite star receiver Quentin Skinner suffering a season-ending ACL tear last week against Collinsville.
Claremore coach Jarrett Hurt said he was pleased with Murdock’s ball-sharing abilities.
“I love the fact that we were able to disperse the ball to all of our weapons tonight,” Hurt said. “Charlie does a great job of that. He spreads the ball around, and I felt he played really, really well tonight.”
After throwing three interceptions — two of which went for touchdowns ¬— in the first three games, Murdock has gone two-straight weeks without a turnover.
“It was a clean game,” Murdock said. “The last five-touchdown game I had was against Bartlesville to open the year, and I had a pick-six that game. I’ve had no interceptions the last two weeks, though, so I’m cleaning it up.
“Everybody was on the same page this week.”
4. Hightower breaks loose
It was only a matter of time before Jace Hightower crossed the century mark.
Hightower had been held to 182 yards on 47 carries since returning in Week 2 from an elbow injury, but he was finally able to unleash his potential against the Cardinals.
The Air Force commit nearly doubled his season total, averaging just over 10 yards per carry in a 181-yard, two-touchdown outing.
He scored on runs of 1 and 14 yards.
“We wanted to get our running game back on track this week,” Hurt said. “If you know football, you know you gotta be able to run the ball and stop the run to win. We wanted to focus on that this week, and Jace did a great job along with our offensive line, our fullbacks and our tight ends.”
5. Looking ahead
Claremore improved to 2-3 overall and 1-1 in District 5A-4 with the 40-point victory.
The Zebras currently sit at fourth in the standings behind Collinsville, Pryor and Tahlequah and look to continue their winning streak next week at Will Rogers.
The Ropers (0-5, 0-2) come into the contest having been outscored 108-6 in their first two district matchups against Tahlequah and Pryor.
“I think that’s what we needed — to get out there and get on a roll,” Kedzior said. “We have these next couple of weeks to build ourselves back because we have some tough games at the end of the season.”