By Matt Goisman
McALESTER — The McAlester Buffaloes faced a tough challenge in the high-speed, class 6A Stillwater Pioneers in Week 1.
The Buffs will face an even tougher challenge when the balanced, methodical Booker T. Washington Hornets, another 6A team, come to town tonight for Week 2.
“They’re a run team,” Buffs coach Bryan Pratt said. “They will throw it up quite a bit, but primarily they’re a run team, and they huddle up. So there will be a whole lot less snaps this game we’ll have to play defensively.”
This will be the Buffs’ fourth consecutive year playing the Tulsa-based Hornets. McAlester beat Booker T. in 2011 but lost last year and in 2010.
Junior quarterback Cordale Grundy led the Hornets to a 27-17 victory in that 2012 game, but he started few games last season. The 2012 Hornets went 6-4 in the regular season and lost in the first round of the playoffs.
A mobile quarterback who can both run and throw, Grundy seems like the right choice for the multiple offensive looks the Hornets use every game.
“He just had to get stronger,” Hornets coach Marvin Dantzler said of Grundy.
“Last year the couple of times he did play were good experiences for him.”
Dantzler said his team ran the ball 29 times and threw it 26 times in a 24-21 loss to OKC-Douglass in Week 1. The Hornets feature a dangerous receiving corps that starts with senior Arlando Johnson, who Dantzler said has already earned scholarship offers from nine Division I schools.
“He’s probably the fastest high schooler in the state of Oklahoma,” Dantzler said of Johnson.
“Taking him the slot where no one can really jam is really taking advantage of him.”
Booker T.’s offense also includes Myles Tease, a senior who Dantzler said has also been offered Division I scholarships, and Tryique Bitson, a sophomore who caught two touchdown passes against Douglass.
“He gives us great size,” Dantzler said of Bitson. “He’s about 6-2, 180, and he’s a basketball player.”
Booker T.’s defense operates out of a 4-2-5 alignment, dropping an extra linebacker into the secondary. The Hornets can afford to lose that seventh player in the box because two of their defensive linemen, Jordan Brailford and Jonathan Willis, have either committed to or received offers from Division I schools.
“They definitely will look the part, and they know how to play the game,” Pratt said.
Dantzler described his defense as a gap-sound “run-stopping front.” Having exchanged film with Pratt, Dantzler said his defense will have to deal with multiple threats, including receiver Caden Pratt and quarterback Dalton Wood.
“We know that we have to stop the run, and we have to contain their short passing game,” Dantzler said. “So it’ll be a real challenge for us.”
The Buffs took 81 offensive snaps against Stillwater, but Pratt said that number is sure to go down against Booker T. McAlester’s offense looked very efficient a week ago, with Wood hitting five different receivers for 254 yards and five touchdowns, plus rushing for two more.
“Three of our plays for touchdowns were off the jet-sweep that we ran so much at them,” Pratt said. “Try to take away one part of our game, and somebody else is able to do it. That’s what our defense is built around. We’re going to take what you give us and try to do our best. We’re not going to force anything.”
The Buffs’ defense allowed four touchdowns against Stillwater, but one came on a drive that started at the McAlester 16-yard line. Several players on both teams cramped up at points during that game, and the Buffs know their conditioning must improve across the season if they want a shot at a state championship.
“We probably played more snaps in that game than we will the rest of them combined,” Pratt said.
“Every week we’ll get better, and the only way you can get that is to actually go through the game, because in practice, you don’t get tackled ... to the ground. It takes a little bit more energy, so that’s something that just takes weeks of practice. I can remember last year, it took us about Week 3 or 4 before we were able to start being in the right shape.”
McAlester-Booker T. kicks off at 7 p.m. at Hook Eales Stadium
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.