Often dropping five defenders into the secondary, the Claremore Zebras challenged the McAlester Buffaloes to win the game on the ground.
So that’s exactly what the Buffs did.
McAlester running back Jarome Smith rushed for three touchdowns and quarterback Dalton Wood rushed for two more, powering the Buffaloes to a 59-35 win against the Claremore Zebras on Friday at Hook Eales Stadium in McAlester.
“If they’re going to widen out to cover our bubble (passes) and our hitches and things like that, than we have to be able to run the football,” Buffs coach Bryan Pratt said. “Which goes back to the way we run our offense: If you stop one thing, you can’t stop the other.”
The Buffs out-scored the Zebras 35-7 in the second and third quarters, turning a one-possession deficit into a 42-21 lead the Zebras couldn't overcome. The comeback began with a 20-yard touchdown run from Smith, then the Buffs forced a turnover when Claremore quarterback Brinley Brown's pass bounced off receiver Hunter Garroutte and into the air.
Buffs safety Caden Pratt grabbed the ball and returned it 67 yards for the interception-touchdown, giving the Buffs a 21-14 lead.
“I just happened to be in the right spot at the right time, caught it and took off,” Caden Pratt said.
The play — McAlester’s first defensive touchdown this season — gave the Buffs a much-needed burst of energy. The Buffs had looked sluggish physically and mentally in the first quarter, but their play improved considerably after Caden’s pick-six, and the Buffs kept focused through to the end of the game.
“We just needed somebody to step up and make plays,” Coach Pratt said.
“It just happened to be in his vicinity, and he made a great catch, and once he gets in the open field, it’s usually pretty good. ... Any time you get a big pick-six, that’s a momentum-switch that really hurts the opponent.”