It started out as a typical August scrimmage for the Claremore Zebra football team, but an unlucky break forced the team to start its season shorthanded. Starting tailback and outside linebacker Jace Hightower suffered an elbow injury and his senior season was suddenly in doubt.
“It was a regular run play and I went to put my arm down to try to stay up and my elbow dislocated,” recalled Hightower. “We had a doctor on our sideline and he came out and he popped it back in right there on the field. The following week I found out I had torn two ligaments, partially tore a tendon and tore the capsule around my elbow joint.”
Hightower was forced to watch from the sidelines as the Zebras took care of business in Week 1, beating Bartlesville, 40-28.
“Once I’m out there I don’t think about it,” said Hightower of his injured elbow. “I just go play. It hasn’t halted me at all so far.”
“That tells you a little bit about his mental toughness,” said Head Coach Jarrett Hart. “He only missed one game. Then he was right back in the lineup in Week 2. Very tough kid.”
“The season is setting up a whole lot like it did last year,” replied Hart. “Last year we started off 1-3, then we kind of got our legs under us and we made a run at the end. We’re hoping that’s the same case this year.”
The loss to Collinsville proved extra costly for the Zebras, as senior receiver and cornerback Quentin Skinner left early in the game with a knee injury. The University of Kansas commit would be lost for the season with a torn ACL.
“That definitely hurts us,” admitted Hart. “Quentin is a dynamic player on both sides of the ball. We’ve got some other guys that are getting healed up and we’re just looking forward to the stretch run.”
“He’s a great player and it’s very unfortunate that happened to him,” added Hightower. “We know that we’ve got to pick up the slack since he’s not going to be out there and we’re going to do our best to do so.”
Hightower certainly picked up the slack in Week Five against East Central, rushing for 182 yards. But he wasn’t the only Zebra to put up big numbers against the Cardinals. Quarterback Charlie Murdock threw for five touchdown passes. Receiver Dylan Kedzior had two TD catches and an interception return for a score.
“We do a good job of spreading it around,” said Hart, who’s in his fourth season as head coach at Claremore. “Dylan Kedzior is having a great year at wide receiver. Brooks Sherl is starting to come on strong at wide receiver, Deshawn Kinnard is another receiver that’s having a good season thus far. We feel like we’re a whole lot more balanced than we’ve been in the past.”
Claremore has been bolstered by the solid quarterback play by Murdock, who transferred from Owasso two years ago.
“Charlie’s been playing great all year long,” stated Hart. “We’re really pleased with how he’s developed and how he’s progressed from last year. This is his second season as our starting quarterback and he’s done a great job leading our offense.”
Despite the setbacks, Claremore coaches and players are confident they’ve got what it takes to make it to the playoffs.
“I definitely think we can,” replied Hightower. “We have a good team. We just need to come together and get it all rolling. The goal remains to get to state.”
Claremore returns to the field this week to take on Tulsa Memorial live on YurView Cox Channel 3 on Thursday, October 17th at 12pm. This Ford Game of the Week will also be streamed live on Yurview.com.