Tenth-ranked Claremore’s quest to ‘Be the One’ resumes tonight, and this time the season is on the line.
The Zebras travel down Highway 69 for a first-round playoff matchup with McAlester at 7:30 p.m. at Hook Eales Stadium. They will be looking to advance to the Class 5A quarterfinals for a third-straight year.
The winner advances to play Nov. 22 against the winner of No. 1 Carl Albert (9-1) versus Duncan (6-3).
Claremore (6-4) is coming off a 21-14 upset of then-No.3 Tahlequah that clinched the third seed in District 5A-4.
Meanwhile, the Buffaloes (5-4) knocked off Bishop Kelley, 35-19, to place second in District 3A-4, earning them their first home playoff game since 2016, which also came against the Zebras in a 37-30 win.
According to IWasAtTheGame.com, the teams have met eight times since 1977, with McAlester leading the all-time series, 5-3. Four of those victories came in the playoffs.
The Zebras’ last win came in a 21-20 overtime decision in 2012. McAlester has won the last two meetings (2013, 2016).
Claremore quarterback Charlie Murdock and the Zebra offense enter the contest averaging 35.6 points per game, but the Buffaloes boast a defense that surrenders only 20.8 points and 227.2 yards per game.
Since giving up 42 points to Ada on Oct. 4, McAlester has notched two shutouts, outscoring opponents 191-62.
The Buffaloes have 14 interceptions this season, returning two for touchdowns. They have also recovered nine fumbles.
Led by Chris Hilton, McAlester’s offense averages 29.1 points and 293.4 yards per game.
Hilton, who will be playing with a cast on his left hand, is the team’s leading passer and rusher with 1,901 yards combined and 23 touchdowns total.
He is 75-of-121 passing for 1,210 yards and 11 touchdowns with six interceptions. On the ground, Hilton has 691 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns on 134 carries.
Hayden Franks and Layne Jarrett will also be a force in the running game, rushing for 454 and 263 yards, respectively, with seven touchdowns combined.
Gage Dollins, who has 288 yards receiving and a touchdown on 14 receptions, is out, which will put more emphasis on the leading receiver Gavin Johnson.
Johnson is a deep threat, averaging 50.6 yards per catch—405 yards total¬—on only eight receptions. All but two of his catches have resulted in touchdowns.
Luke Homer will likely tally targets as well, for he has 13 receptions for 201 yards, and Colby Squyres, who will also be casted up, is close behind with 192 yards receiving and three touchdowns on 14 receptions.
Edison the lone common opponent for the teams this season.
The Eagles beat Claremore, 27-6, on Sept. 20 before taking down McAlester, 25-13, on Oct. 25.
Follow Progress sports editor Kevin Green on Twitter @KevinGreenMedia for live updates throughout the game.
McAlester News-Capital editor Adrian O’Hanlon III contributed to this report.