It’s been tough sledding for a youth-laden and undermanned Durant squad through most of the 2017 gridiron season, but the Lions have been in most every game in the fourth quarter while notching a 1-5 record.
McAlester just wishes it had been that fortunate during the first six weeks of the season.
Suffering through the worst start in school history at 0-6, the Buffaloes have led a game just one time this year as they grabbed a 6-0 advantage in the opening half a week ago only to fall to Tulsa Edison, 17-6. They have been outscored by an amazing average of 36-6.
Friday night the two squads will meet at 7:30 p.m. at Hook Eales Stadium in McAlester with much the same intensity as if they had combined for just one loss instead of only one win.
“McAlester has great tradition and have been on a hot streak for many years,” Durant head coach Ray Richards stated. “They have struggled some this year, largely due to inexperience. We haven’t had a lot of success in recent years against them but feel good about our chances.
“Our goal is to win on Friday night. We know we can win but we must go execute, play well and take care of the football. Do the things you have to do in order to win football games.”
The tradition-rich Buffalo program has had much the same numbers problems as Durant this season after graduating an extremely talented and large senior class. McAlester has been suiting up less than 40 players each Friday night for second-year head coach James Singleton, greatly limiting their depth as well.
Don’t get the wrong impression though. McAlester has played a very tough schedule which has aided the early struggles.
Class 6A Bartlesville and Muskogee along with 4A power Broken Bow. Then the Buffs opened District 5A-3 play with Noble and Shawnee, who right near the top of the league standings. Not a breather in the bunch.
Just a week ago McAlester had its chances against Tulsa Edison, taking an early 6-0 lead before seeing its defense force five Edison turnovers. The Buffaloes failed to score on any of those takeaways however.
Most of the Buffalo struggles have been on the offensive side of the ball, scoring just 13 points since dropping a last-second 30-25 decision to Bartlesville in the season opener.
“They have played a pretty difficult schedule,” Richards said. “They are running a lot more tight end sets this year. Their schemes are sound and they have some good players. They are just young and haven’t played a lot. They are very similar to us in that regard. They are trying to get experience for those kids that haven’t played much just like we are.”
The Lions are coming off the momentum of its first win of the season – a 35-0 blanking of Tulsa East Central – a week ago on Homecoming in Durant.
In that contest the Lions allowed just 18 total yards defensively and got the passing game going on the offensive side with junior quarterback Cade Buchanan connecting on 19 of 24 passes for 239 yards and a pair of scores.
“We didn’t give up any big plays, tackled well, lined up properly and the kids played hard last week,” Richards commented. When you do that it gives you a chance to win. Anytime you can win after losing several games in a row is a good feeling. The last three or four weeks we have improved every day in practice and we were finally able to show it on game day. Hopefully we can gain some momentum from that win and continue to prepare better and better to get some more wins.
“Cade (Buchanan) had his best game of the year, didn’t turn the ball over and only missed maybe one throw all night long. For a high school kid to miss just one throw in a game is pretty impressive. We also developed a nice one-two punch now in the backfield with the duo of (Matt) Gillis and (Isaiah) Addis.”
Offensively, the Lions are averaging nearly 279 yards per game with about 60 percent of that coming from the passing game.
Buchanan is just three yards short of 1,000 through the air for the season with eight touchdowns. Junior Jeremy Seward has been targeted 23 times for 340 yards while senior Brandon Davis has added 14 catches for 250 yards.
Matt Gillis is up to 535 yards on the ground with five scores and 4.4 yards per carry.
On the defensive side, junior linebacker Landon Tubbs leads the way with 41 tackles while Parker Morgan has added 38 stops along with a team-best two sacks. Kash Edwards and Charles Almos have also tallied 32 and 31 tackles respectively.
Contact Kevin Farr at 580-634-2161 or firstname.lastname@example.org
WR 2 Brandon Davis
WR 3 Jeremy Seward
LT 60 Jared Iscimenler
LG 55 Cooper McCoy
C 72 Gavin Rudolf
RG 61 Derek Ogden
RT 56 Braden Rudolf
WR 4 Cade Ogden
WR 17 Jensen Simmons
QB 5 Cade Buchanan
RB 21 Matt Gillis
E 60 Jared Iscimenler
T 55 Cooper McCoy
T 68 Daniel Long
E 48 Parker Morgan
OLB 42 Brandon Fox
MLB 45 Landon Tubbs
OLB 34 Kash Edwards
CB 8 Charles Almos
CB 17 Jensen Simmons
SS 23 Austin Reinecker
FS 2 Brandon Davis