All week, Carl Albert coach Gary Rose felt his team could run the ball right through Claremore.
What better time to find out than the first possession?
After receiving the opening kick, Carl Albert stampeded 82 yards in 14 plays — all runs — to a powerful touchdown. And the statement was made.
Using a straight-ahead attack, the Titans bruised and battered Claremore to an eventual 41-16 win on Friday night, advancing to Class 5A semifinals.
“We felt like they couldn't stop us,” Rose said. “We stopped ourselves a couple times, but we didn't feel like they could stop us. Our offense played really well.”
A vast majority of that offensive output came from star quarterback Steven Thompson, a junior who has continually progressed over the Titans' six-game win streak.
Thompson ran for 220 yards and four big touchdowns, carrying 13 of his 30 times on that critical opening drive. And he also connected on three passes for 131 yards.
“Steven Thompson is a stud,” Rose said. “I told that guy he is the man. He's really developed. You know, he was very young and, I wouldn't call him average, but we knew he had a lot of ability. And he's now developed into a great quarterback, runner, passer and leader.”
Most of Thompson's work was done in the first half, when he ran for 196 of those 220 yards. But he wasn't needed in the second.
And that was thanks to an opportunistic Titan defense, giving up plenty of yards but capitalizing on mistakes.
Carl Albert intercepted four passes, three coming in the second half.
Thompson, who plays both ways, picked one off in the third quarter.
Then, defensive backs Bryan Williams and Dillon Lohr each took an interception back for a touchdown in the fourth quarter, turning a comfortable lead into a blowout.
“Our defense kept them down from making big plays,” Rose said. “And we made big plays ourselves.”
Next week, Carl Albert will meet Bishop McGuinness in the semifinals, a team that beat the Titans 42-32 earlier this season.
“They beat the crap out of us,” Rose said. “We weren't a very good football then. I think we are better. And we're looking forward to it.”