By BEN JOHNSON
Derrick Reliford ran the ball 38 times and piled up 195 yards and three touchdowns as Class 5A No. 8 Claremore toppled Tahlequah 30-20 at Doc Wadley Stadium on Friday night.
The Zebras (4-1, 2-0 District 5A-4) and Tigers (1-4, 1-1) went back and forth all night until Claremore's Jared Vincent kicked a 29-yard field with 5:54 left in the third quarter. That broke a 20-20 tie and put Claremore up 23-20, and the Zebras would never trail from that point on.
"If we had been a little closer, we probably would have went for it, but we have a great kicker in Jared Vincent," Claremore coach Rob Gilbreath said. "I have faith in him. And at that point, I thought three points were better than none and didn't want to take the chance."
The Zebras added a 1-yard touchdown plunge by quarterback Brinley Brown in the fourth quarter with 3:20 to play. The scoring play was set up by Hunter Garroute's 14-yard catch, which he was injured on after being taken to the ground right in front of the goal line.
"He's a great athlete — an unbelievable high-jumper," Gilbreath said. "He made an unbelievable catch and went up and got the ball, and unfortunately he got hurt."
Tahlequah tied the game at 20 on quarterback David Dick's 1-yard run with 8:08 left in the third quarter. Dick finished with 176 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.
Outgaining Claremore on the night, Tahlequah racked up 398 yards of total offense. The Zebras finished with 348 (214 of those coming courtesy of the ground attack).
The Tigers, however, turned the ball over four times (two fumbles, two interceptions).
"Too many mistakes," Tahlequah coach Brad Gilbert said. "Too many turnovers — three of them occurred during a one-possession game — and those are tough to overcome, offensively. It also puts the defense in a bad spot."
The Tigers turned the ball over on two of their final three possessions of the contest.
Down 23-20, Tahlequah took over at its own 27-yard line, but a fumble near midfield thwarted the drive. Then, after Brown's 1-yard scoring run, Dick was picked off by Claremore's Caleb Webster inside Zebra territory.
The two clubs scored before most fans had a chance to settle in for the evening. Reliford scored on the Zebras' first play from scrimmage on a 51-yard carry, and Tahlequah answered 58 seconds later on Dick's 32-yard touchdown run.
It was 7-6 Tahlequah only 10:45 into the game.
Reliford had a 1-yard touchdown run with 5:58 left in the first quarter to put the Zebras up 12-7 (Claremore failed on its first two point-after attempts).
Both teams had 5-yard scoring runs in the second quarter. Tahlequah's Brandon Conrad scored with 4:59 until halftime, and Reliford tallied a touchdown for Claremore with 60 seconds before the break.
The Zebras led 20-14 at intermission.
In District 5A-4 now, Tahlequah and Collinsville are the only pair of teams with one win and one loss. Claremore, Pryor and East Central are all unbeaten in league play. Grove, Central and Coweta are all looking for their first district wins while sitting on two league losses.
"I think we're right there," Gilbert said. "I'm telling ya, the district is wide open, and what I mean by that is there are a lot of even football teams. On any given Friday night, it's the team that makes the least amount of mistakes. That's what it's going to come down to. And when we play mistake-free football, we're a pretty good football team. But when we make those mistakes, we'll get the result we did tonight."
Tahlequah will continue 5A-4 play next week at Coweta.
Note: Tahlequah player taken off field by ambulance
A scary moment occurred late in the first quarter at Doc Wadley Stadium. On a play near the left boundeary, Tahlequah's Jesse Rivas lay motionless after a group of players got up off a pile.
Claremore coaches quickly flagged down trainers, and Rivas was tended to for nearly 15 minutes before an ambulance showed up. Rivas was loaded up and taken to a nearby hospital.
Rivas, though, had feeling in all of his limbs before he left, and he later returned to the stadium before the game was over.
Following the game, it was revealed that all Rivas suffered was a strained neck.
Claremore 30, Tahlequah 20
CHS 12 8 3 7 -- 30
THS 7 7 6 0 -- 20
CLAREMORE — Derrick Reliford 51-yard run (kick failed), 11:43.
TAHLEQUAH — David Dick 32-yard run (Bryce Patrick kick), 10:45.
CLAREMORE — Reliford 1-yard run (conversion failed), 5:58.
TAHLEQUAH — Brandon Conrad 5-yard (Patrick kick), 4:59.
CLAREMORE — Reliford 5-yard (Brinley Brown to Caleb Webster), 1:00.
TAHLEQUAH — Dick 1-yard run (kick blocked), 8:08.
CLAREMORE — Jard Vincent 29-yard field goal, 5:54.
CLAREMORE — Brown 1-yard run (Vincent kick), 3:20.
First downs 22 17
Rush 11 9
Pass 8 6
Penalty 3 2
Rush-yds 52-214 34-294
Pass comp 7 11
Pass att 13 19
INT's thrown 0 2
Pass yds 134 104
Total yds 348 398
Punt-avg 5-36.0 1-29.0
Fumbles-lost 1-0 2-2
Penalties-yds 8-77 7-57
Claremore: Derrick Reliford 38-195.
Tahlequah: David Dick 19-176, Colton Wright 7-65, Brandon Conrad 5-52.
Claremore: Brinley Brown 7-12-0 134
Tahlequah: Dick 11-18-2 104.
Claremore: Dustin Basks 2-75.
Tahlequah: Will Carlile 4-51.