By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — Between day after day of practice, offseason hours spent in the weight room, not to mention the three-hour slugfests endured every Friday night of the fall, the football season can sometimes feel like a grind.
But looking back on four years of high school football, as McAlester’s seniors did at Sunday’s annual awards banquet at the Southeast Expo Center, it can also feel like it passes by as fast as blowing out a candle.
“It’s been a blast the whole time,” Buffs senior Jarome Smith said. “Everything we do is fun.”
The banquet began with Quarterback Club president Ralph Morley thanking the other Quarterback Club officers and those who helped set up the evening. Dinner followed a team prayer led by Morley, then Buffs head coach Bryan Pratt took over to hand out awards.
“What a great season, wouldn’t you agree?” Pratt said. The 2013 Buffs won their district with an undefeated district record, went 14-2 overall and advanced to the 5A state championship game.
After handing out Letterman awards to every Buff who played at least one snap of a varsity game during the 2013 season, Pratt recognized McAlester’s five student trainers, among them senior Madison Drake. Drake was later named Trainer of the Year.
“Our trainers put in as many hours as anybody,” Pratt said.
Pratt then announced the 11 Buffs who earned All-District 5A-3 honors. Those in attendance were treated to a standing ovation by their friends and family members.
After All-District awards came Iron Man awards for every player who attended all practices and team meetings. Ten players earned the Iron Man award, including senior linebacker Lane Grant.
Pratt then announced the Player of the Year Awards. Junior Tim Richards won Scout Team Player of the Year, and sophomore place-kicker Taeam Kang won Special Teams Player of the Year.
Kang also won that award last year, and Pratt said Kang could easily win twice more before graduating.
The Buffalo Way award, given to someone Pratt said “exemplifies what we want for McAlester Football,” went to defensive back and receiver Allen Woodmore.
Mason Bumphus and Cade Harkins both won Defensive Player of the Year. Pratt said ties for this award are extremely rare, given that players and not coaches vote on it.
Caden Pratt, Coach Pratt’s son, was named Offensive Player of the Year. Jarome Smith was named Most Valuable Player.
“I’ll definitely miss it,” Caden Pratt said of his time as a Buffalo. “That’s just part of the thing about growing up: You have to get used to change.”
The event concluded with a candlelight service officiated by Buffs assistant coach Justin Mullins, with each senior lighting a candle before Mullins spoke and then blowing it out after he finished. Each senior then received a scrapbook commemorating his time as a Buffalo.
“They have worked together, laughed together, fought together, played together, and yes, cried together,” Mullins said during the service. “As this part of the journey comes to an end, we must remember all the joys of being a McAlester Buffalo.”
Some Buffs seniors will in all likelihood continue playing football in college next year. But college football isn’t high school football, a singular experience in an athlete’s life.
“You go through it every year, and you always see parents that are maybe emotional, and you don’t really think about it,” Coach Pratt said.
“But when it’s your kid, it’s a little bit different.”
The 2013 Buffs senior class came together to make one last memory. Life may take these Buffs away from each other in the coming years, but those hopefully those memories will always burn bright as a candle.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.