COLLINSVILLE — Claremore had golden opportunities early to take a big lead against Class 5A co-No. 1 Collinsville Friday night at Sallee Field.
Those opportunities resulted in a mere field goal for the Zebras and, when coupled with a heavy dose of hard running by the Cardinals’ Brayden Gilkey, the end result was not a good one for the visitors.
Gilkey rushed for a game-high 200 yards and scored all four of his team’s touchdowns as Collinsville remained unbeaten while rolling to a 27-3 District 5A-4 victory in a battle of old Highway 20 rivals.
“We felt like we were going to hit them in the mouth,” Claremore coach Jarrett Hurt said. “That’s exactly what we did. Our kids came to play. I knew our kids would not back down from them. I was so proud of the effort.
“I wish we could have capitalized on some of those early opportunities on offense,” he added. “I don’t think we got a first down until the second half. Our kids kind of came alive in the second half on offense. We got some good drives going there. They went toe-to-toe with the potential state champion.’”
If it could, Claremore (1-5, 1-2 district) would most likely want to replay the first quarter.
The Zebras had two offensive possessions in the period that started either at or near the red zone following turnovers by the Cardinals (6-0, 3-0), who share the top spot in Class 5A with McAlester, but could capitalize on just one of the miscues.
On the home team’s third play from scrimmage and first pass play of the evening, Claremore’s Aidan Stimson intercepted a pass by Cardinals quarterback Kaden Rush at he Collinsville 20-yard line.
When three offensive snaps by the Zebras netted minus-3 yards, placekicker Hunter Wood attempted a 40-yard field goal but the attempt was partially blocked and no good.
Claremore’s defense stopped Collinsville on its next offensive possession, forcing a punt. But following a three-and-out series for the Zebras and a subsequent punt, Collinsville had the ball again at its own 37-yard line.
On the first play of the ensuing series, a bad snap got past Rush, and the Zebras’ Teagan Panther pounced on the football at the Cardinals’ 21-yard line.
But Claremore could not overcome a procedure penalty on its offensive possession, and Wood was called in for a 43-yard field goal. This time the senior was true on his attempt and Claremore took a 3-0 lead with 2:32 remaining in the opening quarter.
That was pretty much the final hurrah for the Zebras in the first half. Claremore finished the opening half with no first downs and just 13 yards of total offense (4 rushing, 9 passing).
The Zebras had seven possessions in the first two quarters. Besides the two 4-play drives in which Wood attempted field goals and a possession to end the half with just two plays, Claremore’s other four offensive series were three-and-outs.
With Gilkey asserting himself running the ball, the Cardinals took charge in the second quarter.
In the period, the Collinsville senior ripped off touchdown runs of 24, 20 and 10 yards as the home team built a 20-3 advantage by halftime.
In the first half, Gilkey rushed 14 times for 130 of his team’s 154 yards rushing. The Cardinals held a 219-13 edge in total offense at intermission.
Gilkey would go on to add his fourth TD of the night on a 4-yard run with 2:37 to go in the game. The six-pointer, on his 26th carry, gave him 200 yards.
Claremore’s offense finally got untracked in the third quarter.
On its second possession of the half, quarterback Scout Cutsinger hooked up with wide receiver Jason Koger on a 10-yard pass for the Zebras’ initial first down of the game with 8:52 to go in the third quarter.
Titus Ashby, a junior running back, came off the bench and sparked the offense gaining 10 yards—the team’s longest run of the game to that point—on his first touch.
“I was ready for the whole game,” the reserve back said. “It was really exciting at first. I was pretty satisfied with the way I ran. I wish I would have got in there more, but when I did get in I did do my job. If it’s my time to shine, I guess I do shine.”
Ashby added carries of 8 and 4 yards as Claremore drove to the Cardinals 24-yard line before turning the ball over on downs.
That penetration would be Claremore’s deepest into Collinsville territory in the half.
Ashby would later add a 14-yard carry, Claremore’s longest tote of the night, as he ended the night as his team’s leading rusher with 41 yards on 10 carries.
Eli Pezo chipped in 21 yards on the ground on 12 attempts. For the game, Claremore rushed 36 times for a net of 78 yards.
Cutsinger and reserve signal caller Braxton Etheridge combined to complete 7 of 20 passes for 47 yards with two interceptions. The Zebras’ longest pass play of the game—a completion to Ethan Grimett—covered 11 yards.
Claremore’s defense forced three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble recovery) while limiting Collinsville to 206 yards rushing and just 279 yards in total offense.
“Our defense kept giving us opportunity after opportunity tonight,” Hurt said. “I knew they were going to come to play. They had a good week of practice.”
Next up for Claremore is a 7 p.m. home contest Thursday against District 5A-4 foe Tahlequah.