At the crack of dawn, the lights flickered on inside Lantow Field.

Approximately 80 varsity football players showed up at 6 a.m. today for the first Claremore Zebra fall practice.

The Zebras have elected to practice the next three days from 6 a.m. to 8:30 a.m., to stay away the smoltering heat that is beating down on the Sooner State.

On Friday, the Zebras will hold an intrasquad scrimmage at 12:01 a.m. and last til 1:30 a.m. The public is invited to attend as the Zebras go full pads for the first time this season.

According to Claremore head football coach Rob Gilbreath, “The kids are excited to get things going. We had our best Summer Pride ever with 90-100 kids participating.”

Offensively, the Zebras return eight starters including senior tailbacks Chase Talbert and Chris Szcinski and senior offensive linemen Dylan Foxworth and Brandon McCullough.

Also back for his first full-year is sophomore starting quarterback Matthew Whatley.

Whatley took over the quarterback duties during mid-season last fall and led the Zebras to a homecoming win over Tulsa Edison in his first varsity start.

Gilbreath believes the experience Whatley gained last season should benefit his growth this fall.

“Matt was the first freshmen to start a Zebra game since I’ve been here,” Gilbreath said. “The kid is such a competitor and a good athlete. His work ethic is what will carry him a long ways.”

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