By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — The McAlester Buffaloes’ quest for a state championship begins one week from today. As their final tune-up before the regular season, the Buffs head to Norman tonight for the Top of the World Scrimmage.
“We know this is another chance for us to get better and go against some good competition,” Buffs head coach Bryan Pratt said Wednesday.
“It’ll be a good, physical time for us, and we have to come out healthy.”
The varsity portion of the scrimmage starts at 7:10 p.m. and features two sections. In the first section, two teams will face each other in a “Drive-to-Score” series while the other six play a “Quick Fire” series, with two new teams rotating to “Drive-to-Score” every 12 minutes.
Each team starts from the 40-yard-line in “Drive-to-Score,” and it if it can’t pick up a first down in its first three plays, the drive ends and the opposing team takes over on offense. If the team can get to within the 20, it can kick a field goal on fourth down, and if can get to the 5, it can kick a field goal or try for the end zone.
In each “Quick Fire” rotation, teams will play three downs in a row on defense, going against a different offense on each down. Teams will play only offense or defense depending on the rotation, spending two rotations on each.
Once all four 12-minute “Drive-to-Score” rotations end, a fifth rotation will take place in which all eight teams participate in “Quick Fire.” A “Drive-to-Score” team series will then take place in which each team gets one drive on offense and one on defense, going against three different teams in each of two rotations.
In the team series, teams will be able to kick a field goal or try for a first on fourth down anywhere on the field. Teams will also run extra-point attempts after touchdowns.
The eight teams at Friday’s scrimmage will be: Choctaw, Deer Creek, McAlester, Noble, Norman, Sapulpa, Shawnee and Stillwater. McAlester will play every school except Stillwater in the “Drive-to-Score” team series, including district opponents Noble and Sapulpa, and Deer Creek, the team the Buffs upset last year in the 5A state quarter-finals.
“Deer Creek, there might be a little bit of heat going on between us and them,” Pratt said. “It’ll be pretty fun to go up there and play them.”
A strong week of practice led to the Buffs’ success at their own scrimmage last week, Pratt said. During the offensive section of Wednesday’s practice, the Buffs’ passing game looked more precise and varied than it did a week ago.
“We’ve caught the ball really well, and we’re kind of understanding our schemes and stuff a little bit better, and the schemes of our routes, and understanding what can help us,” Pratt said.
“And then defensively, I feel like we’re definitely starting to understand the fit a little bit more, and every rep those guys get just makes it even better.”
The Top of the World Scrimmage will give the Buffs a chance to practice calling plays from the sidelines and up in the box. While definitely beneficial, the Buffs have been preparing for their Sept. 6 season-opener at Stillwater for more than a week.
“We’re excited to get the season started,” Pratt said. “We’re kind of anticipating next week more than we are this week.
“We’re excited about getting the chance to go play somebody (in Norman), but also hoping that we can come out of there healthy and not get any injuries and be able to come back and get ready for the real game next week. We’re really looking forward to that.”
Buffs fans traveling to Norman should take the Indian Nation Turnpike to I-40 W, then after 75 miles keep right onto I-240 W and follow signs for Lawton/Dallas. Take exit 4A for I-35 S, keep left at the fork and then after 11 miles take exit 110B for Robinson St E.
Turn right onto W. Robinson Street, turn right on N. Berry Road, then turn left onto W. Main Street. Harve Collins Stadium is at Norman High School at 911 W. Main St.
Gates open at 4 p.m. Freshmen play at 5, junior varsity plays at 6, then the varsity plays at 7:10.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.