Forrest Mazey wanted to get McAlester back in the playoffs.
After missing the playoffs each of the previous two seasons, McAlester finished the regular season strong to clinch second in its district to end its postseason drought in the first year under Mazey.
“The biggest thing was to end that drought and to get back in the playoffs by whatever means necessary,” said Mazey, who was named the 2019 McAlester News-Capital All-Area Football Coach of the Year.
“I thought we got better every week,” Mazey added. “We preached that the hard work will pay off, the sacrifice will pay off the more they invest.”
McAlester opened the season with two losses before starting District 5A-3 action with a win against rival Durant, which Mazey said boosted the team’s confidence.
After a setback in a double-digit home loss to Ada, McAlester bounced back with a blowout win against Tulsa Hale and ran away with a 48-18 win at Coweta in what Mazey called the turning point of the season.
“It was the point in the season that our kids thought ‘man this is the real deal,’” Mazey said. “Everything started to click for them.”
Despite a 25-13 home loss the following week against Tulsa Edison, McAlester players and coaches held their heads up after competing with one of the top-ranked teams in the state.
McAlester dominated Glenpool on senior night and ended the regular season by closing in the second half against Bishop Kelley to secure second place in the district and a home game in the first round of the playoffs.
The Buffs ran past Claremore in the first round before falling in the quarterfinals to top-ranked Carl Albert, which went on to win the state title.
McAlester’s other losses this season came against 4A state champion Poteau, 6A state quarterfinalist Muskogee, 5A state quarterfinalist Edison Prep, and longtime rival Ada.
Senior quarterback Chris Hilton was named a Co-Offensive Player of the Year as several McAlester players were named to the District 5A-3 all-district team picked by district coaches. Hilton was 87-of-142 passing for 1,322 yards and 11 touchdowns with eight interceptions, adding 166 carries for 900 yards and 16 touchdowns.
McAlester’s Trey Briggs was named one of the district’s Offensive Linemen of the Year; Parker Singleton was one of the district’s Defensive Linemen of the Year, and Colby Squyers was named one of the district’s Tight Ends of the Year.
Mazey said McAlester will have to maintain the mindset of reloading for next season to continue building on the foundation set this year.
“We want to keep a tradition of making the playoffs and on the years that we have some talent and key cogs, that we make a run at the state title,” Mazey said.