Miami’s best defense in Friday night’s non-district battle with Claremore very well could be its offense.
"Hopefully we can get into some three-downs-and-out football, not let them control the tempo of the game and get our offense the football," Miami head coach Rick Woods said. "We kept our defense out on the field too much (in last Friday’s 21-7 loss to Grove). We would hold them for three plays and get them in a punt situation É I think we gave them four first downs on penalties. That is something we can’t do. We have to make them earn it."
The Wardogs outgained Grove 305-249 but managed only one touchdown, a 16-yard TD lob from Jacob Cheatham to Rusty Reece on a fake field goal.
"We’ve had a couple of good days’ practices," Woods said. "We’ve worked extensively in the red zone. Without a doubt, we have big play capabilities. We had several plays over 30 yards the other night."
Senior running back Kyle Jolley finished with 172 yards on 15 carries.
"We think that is going to be our forte É we will run the ball and throw in some play action. We want to try to get the ball into some of our playmakers’ hands. I thought we did a good job of mixing it up, keeping Grove on their heels."
Claremore generated 251 yards in total offense during a 14-13 victory over arch-rival Oologah last Thursday.
"We hung on by the skin of our teeth," CHS coach Rob Gilbreath said. "There was one crucial play, third-and-13 or so late in the game. We threw a little flat route to our fullback, they picked it and scored. That is how they got back in it. We helped them a little."
Claremore also had a fumble at the Mustang 15-yard line to halt another scoring threat.
"We were kinda like Miami with the turnovers," said Gilbreath, who is in his fourth season at CHS.
The Wardogs coughed the ball up four times in the loss to Grove, including two coming on drives that reached the 2 and 16.
"I told Rick after game ‘you are two touchdowns better than them,’" Gilbreath said.
Gilbreath said the Zebras are content to run the football. They threw only 10 passes against Oologah, running it 50 times for 152 yards.
"We are probably 80 percent run, 20 percent pass," Gilbreath said. "It just depends on what the defense is trying to do. We do have two good really good running backs (Chase Talbert and Chris Szcinski) and our quarterback (Matt Whatley) is also a good runner. We are big up front, so we are going to try to run first. Hopefully, we don’t have to do the other. We are not an OU where we will be 50-50 (run-to-pass ratio) or 60-40."
Talbert, one of several players featured on the front cover of the Tulsa World’s high school football preview, has struggled with injuries. He’s battled a nagging hamstring injury and a quad pull.
"He hasn’t been himself all summer, but he slowly is coming back," Gilbreath said. "Hopefully he will be back full speed this week. We’ve been resting him. He had better practices this week."
Szcinski had 76 yards and a touchdown while Talbert added 61 yards on 21 carries in the win over Oologah.
"Their best athlete is probably the Talbert kid," Woods said. "He’s a four-year starter at tailback, probably the best in this part of the state. They’ve got another one back there (Szcinski) who is about as sound as he is. We will have to play well on defense, trying to control those guys."
This will be the 64th meeting in a spirited rivalry that dates back to the old Verdigris Valley and Six Lakes Conferences.
"A guy was talking to me at church the other day and said ‘one of the best games I had ever seen was Miami-Claremore at Miami in the 70s.’ It was really a barnburner,"’ Gilbreath said, referring to a classing 1979 meeting at Robertson Field.
A dazzling 25-yard run by Jeff Fleeger with 1:20 remaining gave the Zebras a 13-9 victory.
Claremore entered the game, which drew an overflow crowd of more than 8,000 at Robertson Field, ranked No. 1 and Miami was ranked fifth.