By Matt Goisman
STILLWATER — McAlester quarterback Dalton Wood’s 2012 game against the Stillwater Pioneers lasted about six minutes and didn’t go particularly well.
Wood’s 2013 game lasted much longer and went much, much better.
Wood threw for five touchdowns and rushed for two more, powering the 5A Buffs to a 47-34 win against the Stillwater Pioneers, a 6A team, on Friday at Pioneer Stadium.
“We’ve been practicing all summer, so we were in rhythm,” Wood said. “Every now and then, they get tired, they aren’t going to be going hard, you’re going to overthrow them, underthrow them. Stuff happens, but more than likely, we’re going to receive the pass.”
Wood engineered a 10-play, 71-yard drive with the score tied 34-34 heading into the final seconds of the third quarter. Facing fourth-and-5 from the McAlester 46-yard line, Wood kept the drive alive by rushing 10 yards on a fake punt, then two runs of at least 10 yards by Jarome Smith pushed the Buffs to the Stillwater 7.
Wood then found Mason Bumphus in the end zone for a 7-yard touchdown pass that Bumphus bobbled but never dropped. The catch put the Buffs up 41-34 with 10:10 left in the game, and after the Buffs’ defense twice held off the Pioneers, Wood broke off a 64-yard quarterback counter for a touchdown and a 47-34 lead with 5:04 left.
“I read the (defensive) end on that,” Wood said of his long run. “He took the running back, so I kept it. That was the first time all night he took the running back instead of running at me.”
Needing two scores to tie, Stillwater moved the ball to the McAlester 38, but Cade Harkins intercepted a pass from Braxton Noble to end the threat. The Buffs rushed for three first downs before kneeling twice to end the game.
“Just the main thing was to stay over the top of No. 8 (Prather),” Harkins said of his pick. “He’s a really good player; he’s fast for them. I did it and just made a play on the ball.”
Harkins started his senior football season on a high note, leading the Buffs with six catches for 82 yards. One of his receptions came after running a perfect post route away from a Stillwater safety, and Wood floated the ball easily into Harkins’ hands for a 36-yard touchdown and a 34-20 lead with 9:21 left in the third.
“He’s done a really good job of trying to get himself prepared for the season, and that’s good for us,” Buffs coach Bryan Pratt said of Wood. “We know he has all the tools and the skills.
“I think we had 31 first downs, which is outrageous.”
The Pioneers overcame a two-score deficit in the third quarter, with Braxton Noble floating one 20 yards to Brandon Prather in the end zone with 6:54 left, then hitting Spencer Parsons between two Buffs defenders just outside of the end zone. Neither Buff could bring Parsons down, leading to a touchdown that made it 34-34 with 36.1 seconds left.
Noble threw for 231 yards and four touchdowns, but he also threw three interceptions.
“We didn’t play with a whole lot of emotion in the first half,” Stillwater coach Tucker Barnard said. “I think we have leadership issues that we need to figure out.”
Heat-induced cramping became an issue for both teams starting in the second half, but the first half featured seven touchdowns between the two squads. Prather began the game with a 90-yard kickoff-return touchdown, but the Buffs responded with a 14-play drive that chewed up nearly half the first quarter.
Showing a good mix of passing and running and twice drawing the Pioneers offsides for first downs, Wood brought the Buffs to the Stillwater 19, then hit Smith on a crossing pattern for a 19-yard touchdown and a 7-6 lead. With his team down 20-14 with 8:30 until halftime, Wood hit Smith on a similar-looking route for a 30-yard score and a 21-20 lead.
“They were off the same principle off of play-action, but the second one was a wheel route, and then the (first touchdown) was a drag route,” Smith said. He finished with four catches for 60 yards and two touchdowns, carried the ball 14 times for 89 yards on the ground and recovered a key Stillwater fumble inside the McAlester red zone.
The Buffs also got yet another highlight-reel play from receiver Caden Pratt. On a third-and-9 from the Stillwater 46, Wood connected with Caden Pratt at about the 20.
Caden caught the ball in traffic, spun out of a tackle and sprinted to the end zone for a 28-21 lead with 8:13 left in the first half.
McAlester opened its season with a win, while Stillwater opened with a loss. McAlester hosts Booker T. Washington next week.
Contact Matt Goisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.