After shedding a tackler at the 30-yard line, Brooks Sherl casually jogged down the field and trotted across the goal line with his back turned to the end zone.
The sudden spin was an unconventional move, but the senior receiver was feeling confident, and rightfully so. There was no stopping the Homecoming King on Friday night.
The 68-yard touchdown was Sherl’s second catch and second score, but he wasn’t done there. He caught one more pass – also a touchdown – before enjoying the remainder of the game from the sideline.
Sherl finished with 139 yards and three touchdowns on three receptions – all in the first 13 ½ minutes – leading Claremore to a 50-2 victory over Nathan Hale on Homecoming Night in District 5A-4 action at Lantow Field.
The Rangers (0-7, 0-5) trailed 28-0 after one quarter, but an assistant coach sitting in the visitors press box on the south side of the stadium thought he had the Zebras’ offense figured out early in the second.
“Eighty-three percent run! Eighty-three percent run!” he shouted through his headset to coaches on the sideline.
His calculations were off most of the night, and he was wrong on this particular occasion as well. It wasn’t a run.
In fact, it was a screen pass to Sherl that resulted in a 59-yard touchdown with 10:26 remaining in the second quarter.
However, Sherl too didn’t foresee such a monumental performance.
“I didn’t expect that,” said Sherl, who caught also caught a 12-yard touchdown pass. “I expected to do OK, but I didn’t expect that, though. It feels really good, especially after being named Homecoming King. It’s really nice to be able to represent the football team the way I did and represent Claremore the way I did and just to be a part of it.
“I’ll do anything to help my team.”
All three of Sherl’s touchdowns were thrown by Scout Cutsinger, who completed 4-of-8 passes for 159 yards. His only other completion went to Reid Brasel for a 20-yard gain.
Claremore (5-3, 3-2) had success on the ground as well, with Demetrice Coronado, Trenton James and Tate Hepler each finding the end zone.
Coronado scored twice on runs of 9 yards and finished with 38 yards on three carries, but Hepler, the backup quarterback, led the team with 42 yards on five carries, scoring on a 5-yard keeper that gave the Zebras a 50-0 lead with 5:25 remaining in the third quarter.
James scored on a 2-yard burst at the 8:15 mark of the second only moments after Nathan Hale lost 22 yards thanks to an errant snap on fourth down.
In all, Claremore outgained the Rangers 252-97. Most of Nathan Hale’s yards came on a 56-yard slip screen pass from Michael Caballero to Kortland Lowe in the first quarter that didn’t lead to any points.
The Rangers sacked Hepler in the end zone with 25 seconds remaining, avoiding their third shutout loss of the season. They have scored only 30 points through seven games.
“They’re trying to get a program started over there at Hale with a new head coach, and they’re working hard at it,” Zebras coach Jarrett Hurt said. “We tried to play everybody tonight and get everybody involved in the game and come out healthy, and that was good for us. We got to play everybody on homecoming, and that’s a great accomplishment.”
Claremore looks to keep its momentum going next week when it visits Sapulpa. The Chieftains own a three-game winning streak over the Zebras with victories in 2015, 2018 and 2019.
Sapulpa enters the contest with the same record as Claremore after dropping a 33-18 decision to Pryor on Friday night.
Although the Zebras are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs regardless of the result, Hurt said his team wants this win.
“We know Sapulpa is a really good football team, and they’ll be out to prove something, and so will we,” Hurt said. “I’ve been telling our guys all year long that the season could end in a very special way for us. I believe that, our kids believe that, and they work hard every day.
“They come to work every day, and I’m just excited about going into week No. 9 at 5-3 with something on the line.”