PRYOR, OK —
The new Average Daily Membership report was approved by the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association Aug. 14. What does that mean for area schools? Not much, except that Pryor and Claremore's annual football battle will hold a little less significance.
The Tigers and Zebras' yearly scramble has had a deeper meaning in the past few seasons, as Pryor moved up to join the ranks of Class 5A with its Highway 20 cousin. The two teams shared a district up until this season — in addition to the bad blood in the rivalry, the game suddenly had playoff implications. But seemingly as quickly as the Tigers moved in, the Zebras are moving out.
The hammer came down on Claremore Wednesday, dooming the program to life in the smaller of the two new 6A divisions, at least for the next two years. If just 4.29 more Del City Eagles showed up to class every day in 2012, the Zebras would have stayed in Class 5A. (Claremore also jumped named-after-American-hero schools Thomas Edison and Nathan Hale in the ADM report.)
Likely to the chagrin of many Pryorites, the news isn't all bad for Claremore. After a vote of OSSAA members, the state's highest classification will be split into two divisions (Legends and Leaders, anyone?), the first comprising the state's 16 largest schools and the second, the next 16. Claremore falls into the latter category, meaning their competition will be the likes of Bartlesville, Muskogee and Sapulpa rather than Broken Arrow, Jenks and Owasso. Their travel distances will likely increase, however, due to the large number of western schools in the smaller division.
Despite Claremore's forced promotion, Pryor head football coach Jason Freeman is confident the Pryor-Claremore rivalry isn't going away any time soon.
"There just won't be playoff implications. But as in pride and playing them every year, being so close, it will still be a physical, heated game," Freeman said. "We need to play Claremore every year, for both schools, for the gate [ticket sales]. It doesn't make any sense for us to not play them, as close as they are. We feel like competitively, that's what we need to do.
"As long as I'm here, we'll play them."
Freeman has charted a course for the next two years, and the Zebras will be the Tigers' first opponent each year. The future non-district series will include Claremore, Wagoner and McAlester in the first three weeks.
As far as the 2013 is concerned, playoff implications will be on the line. Pryor finished 4-6 last season and missed the playoffs by one game with a 3-4 district record. Claremore finished 6-1 in the district and beat the Tigers at Claremore, 31-7.
That one game can make all the difference, and this year — Claremore's last in District 5A-4 — Pryor will have home-field advantage in Week 7.
On the baseball side of things, Claremore and Pryor will continue to share space in Class 5A, though they may not share a district. Larger numbers of teams from the west side of the state force some Oklahoma City-area teams to play in districts with Tulsa-area teams.
In the East-West splits announced last week, former Pryor district foes Noble and Northwest Classen were replaced by Western Heights and Capitol Hill. In football, Noble and Capitol Hill will be the West teams that will participate in East districts.