By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — Standing about 6-foot-2 with big hands and a decent wingspan, McAlester senior Cade Harkins gives the Buffs a big target at wide receiver. All quarterback Dalton Wood has to do is put the ball near Harkins and he’ll most likely haul it in.
Playing wide receiver and cornerback, Harkins loves those jump balls.
“I just like being isolated out there,” Harkins said Wednesday. “It’s a lot of one-on-one stuff and who’s the better athlete.”
Born in Oklahoma City, Harkins moved to McAlester before starting preschool. His family opened three local funeral businesses — Chaney-Harkins Funeral Home and Bishop Funeral Services in McAlester, Jones-Harkins Funeral Home in Wilburton — and Harkins started playing flag football in the third grade.
“It was just running around like a chicken with my head cut off,” Harkins said of those early games.
Harkins said he’s almost always been a wide receiver and defensive back, but he’s played quarterback a on a few occasions. One of those occasions still ranks among Harkins’ worst football memories, when the Claremore Zebras stunned the Buffs in overtime last season.
Sadness permeated the locker room after that game, but Harkins returned to quarterback the following week and helped the Buffs beat Noble. Harkins’ 2012 season steadily improved after that, culminating in McAlester’s upset win at Deer Creek in the state quarter-finals.
Harkins caught two passes including a touchdown against the Antlers. Though the Buffs lost a week later in the semifinals, Harkins still fondly remembers beating a Deer Creek team picked to win by several touchdowns.
“We really played as a team that game,” Harkins said of the Deer Creek game.
Most of the 2012 Buffs’ offense came from its ground game. That led the Buffs to the state semifinals, but it meant less use for Harkins and the other receivers.
With Wood back at quarterback, Harkins is sure to see more touches this year. In Week 1 at Stillwater, he led his team with six catches for 82 yards and a touchdown.
“To win State is the ultimate goal,” Harkins said of this season. He added that to win a championship, it’ll take “everybody working hard, playing as a team and not underestimating any opponent.”
Harkins said he’s tried to model his playing style on Brandon Stokely, a two-time Super Bowl champion currently playing for the Baltimore Ravens.
“He’s just good, fast, ran good routes, always caught the ball,” Harkins said of Stokely.
“I like running all routes. I think that’s one of my strong suits, too, is route-running.”
This will be Harkins’ last year with teammates he’s known for years, so doing whatever he can to help win a state championship is his main focus. He said he’d like to continue playing football in college, most likely at a Division II such as the University of Central Arkansas in Conway or Pittsburg State University in Kansas.
“He’s definitely a kid that can play at the next level,” Buffs coach Bryan Pratt said. “Very smart, works hard, and does the little things that it takes to be successful. I think someone will end up taking him.
“It’s a plus for us to have mature kids like Cade who just want to win.”
If he can’t play football in college, Harkins said he’ll most likely join the military, which would make college much more affordable. He’s looked into joining both the Army’s “High School to Flight School” program and the Marines.
“I’ve had family that have been in the military,” he said.
Though an Oklahoma Sooners fan, Harkins said he’d prefer to attend an out-of-state school, just to try something different. Having grown up watching his parents run their three funeral homes, Harkins might major in business.
“I learned you don’t get very many days off,” Harkins said.
When not playing football, Harkins said he enjoys playing video games and spending time with friends. Harkins played on McAlester’s inaugural soccer team last spring, and he said he’s considering between soccer and baseball this spring.
“I got a little faster, but I did slim down a little bit,” Harkins said of his 2013 soccer season.
Harkins was one of the soccer team’s best offensive players last year, and he credited his success to the physicality he brought to the striker position.
That physicality comes from football. Because for Harkins, to win the one-on-one battles downfield, sometimes you just have to out-muscle the other guy.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.