PRYOR, OK —
Game of the Week: Pryor (4-2, 3-0) vs. No. 7 Claremore (5-1, 3-0), 7 p.m. Thursday
The 2013 edition of the annual Rogers-Mayes County showdown will have plenty of extra spice.
The rubber finally meets the road tonight. Pryor and Claremore come into the game with the only two unblemished marks in the district, and in the free-for all that is District 5A-4, every game counts. No team has established a secure foothold in the district yet. Every game so far has been hotly contested, from Pryor's seven-point comeback win over last-place Grove to Claremore's 30-20 escape at 1-5 Tahlequah.
This is the last time for at least two years that district standings factor in to the rivalry game. The last time the Tigers topped the Zebras was in 2011, which was also the last year Pryor made the playoffs. Another win against Claremore would propel the Tigers back into the playoffs.
And, most importantly, bragging rights are on the line tonight.
The Tiger rushing attack will need to be as potent as it has been the last three weeks (306.3 yards per game) to keep the Zebra offense on the sideline. Tiger head coach Jason Freeman will call on junior quarterback Brennon Barth to make plays with his arm as well as his legs. Barth struggled in non-district play but has thrown for 261 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions through three district contests. Barth accounted for nearly 300 of the Tigers' 507 yards of offense last week against Grove.
Look for Alex McCammon (four sacks, two fumble recoveries) and Kyle Goforth (team-best 8.2 tackles per game) to have big nights rushing Claremore quarterback Brinley Brown. The Tigers will try to pressure Brown into making mistakes and place the offensive responsibility squarely on star running back Derrick Reliford's shoulders.
Bold Prediction: Claremore 30, Pryor 24
No. 10 Locust Grove (6-0, 3-0) vs. No. 11 Hilldale (5-1, 3-0), 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Call it "Game of the Week II." This one has just as much district and statewide significance as the 5A throwdown in Pryor, and probably even more star power. For every Mason Fine (1,450 pass yards, 15 TDs) and Cameron McIntire (six touchdown catches) the Pirates boast, Hilldale counters with a Chandler Puckett (1,218 pass yards, 12 TDs) or Hunter Woods (14 rush TDs). The District 3A-7 playoff order will shake out after this game, and the winner will have the inside track to host a pair of playoff games as the district's top seed — and LG will have an opportunity to keep its unbeaten season alive.
Bold Prediction: Locust Grove 34, Hilldale 30
Salina (5-1, 3-0) vs. Hulbert (0-6, 0-3), 7 p.m. Thursday
This one is already over. With Salina's demanding back stretch (Commerce and Kansas still loom), you can bet Wildcat coach Kyle Fowler is glad to have the lowly Riders on the fall break weekend. The Salina staff will be grateful for the extra day to break down film on unbeaten Commerce. Hulbert hasn't scored a point in the month of October. Salina should come out strong and have enough breathing room to start prepping for the Tigers after the first half.
Bold Prediction: Salina 52, Hulbert 0
Adair (5-1, 3-0) at Chelsea (2-4, 1-2), 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Don't expect the Warriors to shift into cruise control just yet, but beginning with Chelsea, Adair's final four opponents have combined to win exactly five games through the season's first six weeks. Adair racked up 50 points for the fourth time this season last week against Chouteau and there's no reason to think the Warriors can't hit the half-century mark every week from here on out.
Bold Prediction: Adair 55, Chelsea 12
Chouteau (3-3, 1-2) vs. Pawhuska (1-5, 1-2), 7:30 p.m. Thursday
The Wildcats are looking to bounce back from a pair of devastating losses and will need to get past Pawhuska to do it. The scrappy Huskies nearly knocked off Nowata last week and have a history of coming on strong late in the season, including sneaking into the 2011 playoffs and knocking off unbeaten Adair in 2011. A win would give either team a much-needed boost out of the crowded 2A-7 basement.
Bold Prediction: Chouteau 20, Pawhuska 16
Chuck's Week 6 Picks: 4-0