Corey Stolzenbach

Corey Stolzenbach

I've never really been the biggest Star Wars fan, though I certainly have no reason to hate on it.

If I could, though, I'd borrow the title of one of George Lucas' masterpieces in saying there is a new hope in McAlester with the approaching fall sports seasons.

Expectations are quite high for the softball program, and Lady Buffaloes coach Kelleya Cox said she expects her team to make it to the state tournament. There is definitely a wave of enthusiasm, and why wouldn't there be? 

Sure, McAlester lost some of its players via transfer, but there are some good, young players mixed in with some veterans. Winning a tournament at Vanoss this summer also indicates hope that this club will be trending upward.

Another breakthrough opportunity is for the boys cross country program trying to get to state. 

Some gifted runners have graduated in the last two years in Jake Rattan, Matt Rattan and Cody Norriss — but boys cross country coach Chad Waller seems to think that incoming seniors Gabe Birchfield and Matt Hyden are ready to take the mantle.

Athletic director John Homer said excitement comes any time there is a coaching change, and there have been plenty, but that's all the more reason to be optimistic.

McAlester football was on the edge of the playoffs in 2018, only to fall one game shy. There's a craze in the NFL in trying to find the next Sean McVay, and I can't help but feel people are trying to find somebody who even looks like the coach of the NFC Champion Los Angeles Rams. 

New Buffs coach Forrest Mazey not only bears a physical resemblance (at least in my view), but it's obvious he's trying to do some of the same things at McAlester. 

His passion and enthusiasm really ring through in trying to mold teenage boys into men of solid character and his proven track record have generated excitement.

Then there's Laurie Smith, who comes to McAlester from Texas as the new volleyball coach of the Lady Buffs. Smith asked me during my interview with her about the direction the volleyball program is headed and it will have a ladder to climb. 

However, if there's one thing to be optimistic about with volleyball is that programs can and do trend upward. Think of the soccer program at McAlester. Both the Buffs and Lady Buffs had their most successful seasons to date in 2019, just on the outside looking in when it comes to the postseason.

People who may go catch a volleyball game this season at Bob Brumley Gymnasium would be hard pressed not to notice all of the state championship banners that adorn the building named for the incoming Hall of Fame coach. It tells the story of a proud athletic tradition and the athletes who have come through this town.

It has been a while, nearly a decade, since a team from McAlester etched its name among those state title teams, but down times don't last forever. 

Once Monday arrives, it could be the start of these coaches becoming legends in this place. You just never know.

Contact Corey Stolzenbach at CStolzenbach@mcalesternews.com