McALESTER — It hardly mattered that the East Central Cardinals ran 54 more offensive plays than the McAlester Buffaloes.
With the Cardinals’ defense utterly incapable of stopping the Buffs, their offense could do little more than watch the game get further and further out of hand.
The Buffs scored 11 touchdowns, each time needing three or fewer offensive plays, to beat the Cardinals, 76-28, in Friday's playoff-opener at Hook Eales Stadium in McAlester.
“We knew physically we didn’t match up with this team,” Cardinals coach Bobby Klinck said. “This is the best team I’ve seen on film, and we knew we’d have to play a perfect game and come up with some things, because we couldn’t match them man-for-man.”
Already up 35-21 at halftime, McAlester put the game away with a dominating third quarter in which it outscored East Central 34-0. Jarome Smith began the second half in style, returning a kickoff 80 yards for a touchdown that made it 41-21 after Taeam Kang's only missed extra-point attempt in the game.
After the Buffs' defense forced a three-and-out, Smith scored again on a 45-yard run up the middle to make it 48-21 Buffs with 10:32 left in the third. The Cardinals went three-and-out again, then Rhyln Stephens rushed 21 yards for the Buffs third touchdown in the first four minutes of the quarter.
“Most of our run plays, they leave like a free-hitter type of person,” Smith said. “I just want to give a shout out to my wide receivers, because they physically dominated across the board. I got to the edge and literally only had to worry about one person all night.”
Dalton Wood added a 27-yard touchdown run with 6:32 left to make it 62-21 Buffs. The Buffs punted away their next possession, but after their defense forced the Cardinals' fourth punt in as many third-quarter drives, the Cardinals left receiver Blakely Williams uncovered near the left sideline at the East Central 17-yard line.