McALESTER — After their big Homecoming win against Shawnee on Friday, the McAlester Buffaloes could easily look past the Nathan Hale Rangers to bigger opponents such as Durant or Bishop Kelley. The Rangers, after all, are 0-5, just once losing by fewer than 30 points.
The Rangers don’t seem nearly as daunting as the Wolves. But that’s exactly the mentality Buffs coach Bryan Pratt wants to avoid when the Buffs head to Tulsa on Friday.
“You can’t walk out there and just kind of go through the motions,” Pratt said Wednesday.
“This isn’t who we’re trying to be. We’re trying to be state champions, and in order to do that, you’re going to have to go out and play no matter who you’re playing.”
The Buffs will face a Rangers team hampered by a number of issues. Injuries, ineligibility, inexperience — all of these factors have combined to keep Hale from establishing a consistent offense or developing solid defense.
“Inexperience is probably the No. 1 thing,” Hale coach Tony Peters said. “Right now, we’re a very poor tackling team.
“We have to be smart and be able to realize where the gaps are on the back end, on the passing end. But we’re having trouble on the front-side, the tackling.”
With so much inexperience up front, Peters said, the Rangers have tended to put as many as eight men in the box on defense, trying to block up all gaps and stop the running game. That strategy has paid off for brief periods of time, but opponents are still averaging more than 50 points per game against the Rangers.
Peters said he’s hoping to get more production from defensive tackle Raul Pando. A senior, Pando will also play center Friday.
“He’s 6-2, 265 pounds,” Peters said. “Has a lot of talent, but again he hasn’t played since his freshman year of high school.”