Skip to main content

Bishop Kelley now on a roll after starting the season 0-2

Comets in the lead for District 5A-4 title after knocking off previously undefeated Claremore, 42-41
  • Author:
  • Publish date:

TULSA, OKLAHOMA - After an 0-2 start to the season, Bishop Kelley has been on a roll, including big wins over Bishop McGuinness, and District 5A-4 rivals Collinsville and Claremore. 

With wins against both the Cardinals on Sept. 29 and the previously unbeaten Zebras on Friday night, the Comets are now in the driver's seat for the District 5A-4 championship with games remaining at Tulsa Hale (Friday) and at home against Grove (Nov. 3). The latter will be crucial since the Ridgerunners are also in the race for the title, and both Collinsville and Claremore play each other that same evening.

Both Collinsville and Claremore came in unbeaten when Kelley beat them.

The Cardinals, who won the Class 5A state championship in 2021 and were district runner-up last year, fell to the Comets, 39-28. 

This past Friday, the Zebras came in unbeaten at 7-0 for the first time since the late 1970s, and they looking to make it an eighth win with no blemishes.

Claremore almost did it, but Kelley would not have it. It rallied from 13 points down in the final quarter for a 42-41 victory in what was a wild game.


Kelley (6-2 overall, 5-0 in 5A-4) opened the season on Zero Week with a 24-21 loss at Poteau, in a game that was neck-and-neck. The Pirates, ranked No. 9, are still unbeaten headed into Week 9 and are a contender for the Class 4A title.

But things looked dim the next week in a 35-7 loss at Rogers, (Ark.). Then the turnaround began.

“We started off pretty slow. We were missing a couple of players,” senior quarterback Stice Smith said. “One was on suspension and we had a couple of injuries. We knew we had to rally. Poteau was a dogfight until the end of the game. Rogers wasn’t that close, but it sparked something in us.

"We had the tar beaten out of us (by Rogers), but we were ready for Bishop McGuinness, and that’s a big in-state rivalry game for us that means a lot. And we knew after we beat them, that we were a pretty good team, and we knew that we had to just keep playing hard, keep our heads up, and that’s what we’ve done. We’ve been unbeaten ever since.”

Bishop Kelley QB Stice Smith 

Bishop Kelley QB Stice Smith 


Kelley was unranked going into Friday’s game against the Zebras (7-1, 4-1), who were 18th in the Week 8 SBLive Oklahoma Top 25 football poll.

In a game of kickoff returns, interceptions and other spectacular stuff, Claremore scored three TDs on fourth downs in the game, the last of which put them ahead, 41-28, when junior fullback Tyson Grimmet scored from a yard out with under eight minutes left in the game.

The extra point was blocked and that would end up making the difference.

Kelley answered as it drove with Smith running around left to the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown to make it a 41-35 game.

Junior defensive back Gage Hall picked off a Zebra pass on the ensuing drive, and Kelley had the chance to take the lead. It did just that as Smith led the team down the field again and found fellow senior Tyler McGinty for what ended up being the go-ahead TD from 9 yards out with 1:43 left.

With another chance to score, retake the lead, win, and remain unbeaten, Claremore drove to the Comet 20, but time expired.

“We didn’t start off the way we wanted to. I started off with a pick and we got beat over the top with a touchdown,” said Smith, who finished with 220 yards and three TDs passing, two scores rushing. “But we had something inside us, where our coach instilled it. They said, ‘Never give up. The game is never over.'

"And we’ve worked on the two-minute drill in practice, where we’re scoring pretty quickly. I think we were prepared, and we knew it wasn’t over until that clock went off. That’s really what kept us going.”

The pick Smith threw set up Claremore’s first lead of the evening.

Prior to that play, Kelley scored first on Smith’s 1-yard keeper and it was 7-0.

The score was set up by a 75-yard return by Mason McFarlane on the opening kickoff. It gave Kelley a first down at the Claremore 20-yard line.

The Zebras tied it with 3:45 left in the first as Braxton Etheridge threw a fourth-down pass to Gage Deckard, who caught it near the goal line before crossing the plane. 

Running With Purpose: Midwest City (Oklahoma) 2024 tailback Lasiera Laviolette playing while remembering younger brother 

Smith would get picked off by Deckard, who took it 60 yards to the Kelley 4-yard line. After getting sacked for 6 yards, Etheridge took it for 10 yards on a keeper and Claremore was up, 14-7. 

Eli Hensley ran down the left sideline 31 yards for a tying TD early in the second. But Claremore answered with junior Walker Dunaway taking the ensuing kickoff back 89 yards for a TD, putting his team up 21-14.

However, the Comets answered back as Smith connected with senior tight end Reid Jones in the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 3 with 4:12 left in the first half. The game was tied, 21-all, at halftime.

There would be another exchange of TDs before the Zebras surged out in front with the largest margin of the game.

But Kelley did what it needed to get the job done and won.

“It feels amazing,” Smith said. “Especially starting off with two losses. We just kept our heads up.”

So now, where do the Comets go from here?

“Take one game at a time,” Smith said. “We want to win out and win a district title. Then, it’s on to the playoffs.”


McFarlane later took a kickoff back 42 yards, setting up a 37-yard TD from Smith to senior Gunnar Jackson, tying the game at 28-all, in the third quarter. He later took a kickoff 40 yards to the Comet 46, setting up a 24-yard TD scamper, which started the Kelley rally. 

Photo of Bishop Kelley QB Stice Smith by Brett Rojo, Tulsa World

-- Mike Moguin | @SBLiveOK