By Matt Goisman
It didn’t matter if the McAlester Buffaloes kept extra defenders in the box or dropped more into the secondary.
Between Guthrie running back Kai Callins and wide receiver L’Liot Curry, the Buffs had no answer to the Bluejays’ potent offense.
Callins rushed for 234 yards and four touchdowns, and Curry added 128 receiving yards and a key touchdown catch to lead the Bluejays past the Buffaloes 51-21 in Saturday’s Class 5A state championship at Boone Pickens Stadium at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater.
“It was quoted that our offense couldn’t stay up with theirs, that we weren’t going to be able to score enough points,” Guthrie coach Rafe Watkins said.
“We let it be known that we’re not a terrible offense ourselves, and we wanted to show that we could play a little bit too.”
All three times McAlester’s offense scored, Guthrie answered on its next drive, never allowing the Buffs to gain any momentum. After a 41-yard pass from Dalton Wood to Caden Pratt led to a 1-yard rushing touchdown by Wood with 15 seconds until halftime, Guthrie responded with Zonté Veasley returning the kickoff to McAlester’s 41-yard line.
As the second quarter expired, Guthrie quarterback Reed Roberts completed a 41-yard pass to Curry in the end zone. Instead of going into halftime confident and down 2, the Buffs went in frustrated and down 9, 23-14.
“The play right before halftime killed us,” Buffs coach Bryan Pratt said.
“The way we looked at it, it was probably going to continue to go, because we couldn’t get any stops.”
A Buffs fumble at their 9-yard line set up a 3-yard touchdown run by Callins to make it 30-14 with 8:04 left in the third, but McAlester’s defense forced a punt on Guthrie’s next drive. Caden Pratt then drew a 15-yard pass interference penalty on offense, and two plays later Jarome Smith broke off a 40-yard touchdown run to cut the deficit to 30-21.
Clearly benefiting from an extra week of rest, Caden led the Buffs with nine catches for 115 yards and a touchdown. His strong punt- and kickoff-return skills also gave the Buffs great starting yardage on several drives.
“I knew that No. 15 (Curry) was coming from the inside,” Caden said. “He was flying to me, so I knew what I had to do was get outside.”
After Smith’s touchdown, Callins rushed 31 yards to the McAlester 30. Idae Alexander, who had two fourth-quarter touchdown runs for Guthrie, then ran it in from 5 yards out to push the lead back to 37-21.
A 22-yard pass to Caden Pratt and a 22-yard run by Smith moved the Buffs to the Guthrie 6 following Alexander’s score, but an illegal formation penalty erased a touchdown run by Smith. McAlester worked its way back to the 1, but a snap infraction cost the Buffs five yards, and Wood missed his next two passes to end the drive without scoring.
“Our offensive and defensive lines both played extremely well,” Watkins said. “We felt like that was probably a place that we had to build on in the offseason, especially our offensive (line).”
Three plays after Guthrie’s goal-line stand, Callins burst through the Buffs’ defensive line and sprinted 86 yards for a touchdown that made it 44-21 Bluejays with 7:36 left in the game.
Callins earned MVP honors for the game — an award he also won as a sophomore when Guthrie won it all in 2011.
“I couldn’t ask for a better offensive line,” Callins said. “We knew that if we kept McAlester’s high-powered offense off the field, we’d have a pretty good chance of winning this game.”
The Buffs’ touchdown-erasing penalty reflected a game in which they made an uncharacteristic number of small mistakes.
Against a stingy Bluejays defense, those mistakes proved costly.
“We just didn’t make the plays that we needed to make,” Coach Pratt said.
“It’s just one of things where we were disappointed right now, but we’re really proud of our kids and where they got us to.”
Callins’ 1-yard touchdown run put Guthrie up 10-0 early in the second, but Caden Pratt returned the ensuing kickoff to McAlester’s 49-yard line. A 41-yard pass to Mason Bumphus moved the Buffs to the Guthrie 9, and three plays later Wood faked a counter-run before dumping the ball over the line to a leaping Caden Pratt in the end zone to make it 10-7 Guthrie.
As with McAlester’s other two scores, Guthrie responded with a touchdown drive of its own. Curry caught two passes during the eight-play, 62-yard drive, then Callins finished it with a 15-yard touchdown run to push the lead to 16-7.
“If he would throw it up, I’d catch it,” Curry said. “That’s all it really was. Reed (Roberts) has a lot of trust in me, and I have the same.”
With the win, Guthrie finished its season 14-0, winning its second title in three years. The Buffs finished 12-2, still advancing father than any of Coach Pratt’s previous Buffs teams.
Contact Matt Goisman at firstname.lastname@example.org.