Richard Carney’s prediction came true on Friday.
The 1969 McAlester graduate was part of Friday’s celebration of the 1968 Class 2A state championship team at Hook Eales Stadium. Carney was an all-state player for that undefeated McAlester team, and he spoke to the current Buffaloes (3-4, 3-1) prior to Friday’s District 5A-3 game against Coweta.
“’You’re 2-1 in the district, and you’re going to be 3-1 after tonight,’” Carney told the team before McAlester went to hang on for a 28-27 win.
However, a 21-6 McAlester lead after the first quarter ended up being a 27-21 deficit in the fourth quarter. The Buffs drove to the red zone, with junior Chris Hilton punching it in on a one-yard keeper and senior Kaden Webb's extra point was good for a 28-27 lead with 6:11 left to play.
The Buffs still had to play some defense, though. Hilton punted a ball on fourth down for McAlester, pinning Coweta at the one-yard line with 99 yards to drive. Less than a minute remained when the Buffs were pressuring junior Coweta quarterback J.D. Geneva. Senior Austin Dugan said fellow senior Willie Richards and he pressured Geneva, and Richards forced a fumble.
Senior A.J. Buckley recovered the fumble with 52.7 seconds left to escape with a 28-27 win for McAlester's homecoming game.
"My first thought was, 'look for the ball,' and I jumped on it once I'd seen it," Buckley said.
Hilton took a couple of kneel downs, and McAlester pulled it off.
It took all of 11 seconds for the Buffs to get on the board. McAlester won the coin toss and elected to receive. Sophomore Jaxon Walters and senior A.J. Martin were set back to kick.
Instead, Dugan took it on the short kick. He found a hole and ran it all the way into the end zone untouched on a kickoff returned for a 72-yard touchdown. Webb’s extra point was good, and it was 7-0 Buffs with merely 11 seconds in.
The Tigers almost tied, however, taking advantage of a face mask penalty against Martin. It was third down with five yards to go when sophomore Wesley Spohn broke free for a 27-yard rushing touchdown. However, senior Bransyn Stevens missed the point after attempt, and McAlester maintained a lead, 7-6, at the 10:01 mark in the first quarter.
Martin made up for his penalty, however. The Buffs got the Tigers to jump off sides, moving it from third and eight to third and three. Martin got the hand off and after some traffic, he ran down the sideline to his left and won the footrace, going all the way into the end zone on a 74-yard score with 8:30 to go in the first. Webb’s extra point kick made it 14-6 Buffs with a penalty against Coweta following the score.
The Buffs made the decision to attempt on an onside kick, which they recovered.
"They had the penalty, and it gave us a short field and we felt like even if we didn't get the onside kick in that situation, they were going to get the ball at about the 30 or 35-yard line anyway, so we went ahead and tried it," McAlester head coach James Singleton said.
The drive was nine plays long and ended with Hilton rolling to his right side to find senior receiver Trent Pickens for an eight-yard receiving touchdown on third down. Webb booted the point after to extend McAlester’s lead to 21-6 at the 4:44 mark in the first quarter.
Coweta pulled closer on the first play of the second quarter. The Tigers were driving and Geneva found fellow junior Blake Lair for a 24-yard touchdown. Stevens made his kick after this time, and it was a 21-13 Buffs lead with 11:53 to go in the first half.
Neither team scored in the remainder of the half, but Coweta was driving towards the end after sophomore Gunnar McCullough intercepted Hilton with 6:47 to go. Hilton looked for junior wide receiver Colby Squyres on a deep ball, but the ball went past Squyres and into McCullough’s hands.
Coweta took over, and McAlester’s penalties helped keep the drive alive. Back-to-back flags ensued, and Geneva had an incomplete pass with 3:41 left to go in the half that would have turned the ball over on downs. However, the Buffs were flagged for holding, and Coweta got a fresh set of downs. McAlester totaled eight penalties in the first half.
The Tigers went for it again on fourth down with 2:13 left to go, with junior Thomas Ivy running to the right side trying to extend the drive. The referees spotted the ball, and brought out the chains. Ivy was short of inches and the Buffs got the ball back.
However, McAlester could not add to its lead, with Hilton being sacked to end the first half.
Coweta got the ball to start the second half. Geneva found Lair in the left side of the end zone for Lair’s second touchdown reception of the evening with 9:56 left to play in the third quarter. The Tigers went for two and Geneva rolled to his right and found Ivy, but an offensive holding penalty was called on Coweta to negate the two. Coweta went for two again, but this time McAlester sacked Geneva, and the Buffs held a 21-19 advantage.
The Tigers took their first lead of the night when the Buffs turned it over on downs with Hilton tried to keep it on fourth down with four yards to go, but fell short. Geneva found a wide open Lair for 62 yards and the third touchdown of the evening between the two of them. Geneva then found Lair for two, and the Buffs were in a 27-21 hole at the 1:57 mark of the third quarter. Coweta had scored 21 unanswered points.
Geneva finished the game 16-of-34 passing for 285 yards and three touchdowns, all to Lair, who caught five passes for 166 yards in addition to those three scores.
"They're a good football team and we knew they were very explosive on offense, we knew that they were going to score points," Singleton said, saying the goal was to keep the offense on the field as much as possible to shorten the game.
Hilton finished the game 7-of-13 passing for 27 yards with a touchdown and interception each, but he had 28 carries on 110 rushing yards and the game-winning touchdown on the keeper.
Martin was McAlester's leading rusher on 19 carries for 152 yards and a score. He also was the leading receiver for the Buffs with three catches for 16 yards.
The Buffs are back on the road Thursday for fall break week at Tulsa Edison.
"We're going to have to come back and come back on Sunday and get ready to go and just keep doing what we're doing," Singleton said.