BETHANY — Bethany coach Reagan Roof had a simple message for his football team after the Bronchos cruised to a 48-28 win over Washington on Friday night.
Now they count.
The first three weeks have been fun, but next Friday's game against John Marshall signals the start of district play and the first step along the path toward what the Bronchos hope is a home playoff berth two months from now.
Of course, with their offense running as smoothly as it has through three games, the Bronchos are prepared to compete with just about anybody in Class 3A.
Quarterback Ryley Claborn threw five touchdown passes, completing 11 of 15 attempts for 239 yards. He connected three times with receiver Gage Diffee and twice with Blake Collins as the Bronchos jumped to a 34-7 halftime lead at The Children's Center Bowl at Bethany/Southern Nazarene Stadium.
Bethany's balanced offense finished with 244 passing yards and 281 rushing yards in improving to 3-0.
“Ryley and I have a lot of chemistry, playing together since the seventh grade,” Diffee said. “We have a lot of offensive weapons — a deep threat, the fast guy, a running back who can lower his pads and get the tough yards. We're really blessed this year with a lot of talent.”
Claborn has put up ridiculously impressive statistics through three games, completing 55 of 67 passes for 842 yards and 13 touchdowns with no interceptions, but it's the offense as a whole that has the Bronchos rolling right now.
“Ryley is special, and he's playing well,” Roof said. “But our guys out there running and catching the ball are playing well. We're pretty deep at receiver. They're catching the ball and making plays. Our offensive line is protecting Ryley.
“Offensively, we're playing well in every phase.”
Big plays were the Bronchos' specialty on Friday. Claborn threw touchdown passes of 48, 37 and 32 yards on three consecutive passing attempts, and Diffee had five catches for 150 yards, all in the first half.
In the second half, the run game took over, with Brett Gilstrap scoring on a 39-yard run and Collin Coffee going 69 for a TD.
After reaching the semifinals last year, Bethany has its sights set even higher this season. And though they play in arguably the most competitive district in the state, the Bronchos know they can't start looking ahead to opponents such as Kingfisher or Heritage Hall, because every game is valuable in pursuit of a home playoff berth.
“We've got to take care of John Marshall next week and move on from there,” Gilstrap said. “Home field is always important, especially here. We have a good crowd here. That would be great if we could get a playoff game here.”