McAlester is back home on Friday for more than just a regular game at Hook Eales Stadium against District 5A-3 opponent Coweta.
The Buffaloes (2-4, 2-1) are also hosting their annual homecoming game — in addition to honoring the 1968 Class 2A state championship team that went 12-0 and won the first of two state football crowns in the history of the Buffs. A meet-and-greet will be held with the 1968 team at the McAlester indoor facility at 6 p.m. prior to kickoff at 7:30 p.m.
Richard Carney — who is a 1969 McAlester graduate, an all-state player on the 1968 team and former assistant football coach at McAlester — was scheduled to speak to the team on Thursday, according to head coach James Singleton.
“Coach Carney’s a great guy, he’s always great to talk to,” Singleton said.
Carney and other members of the 1968 championship team will be in attendance as the current Buffs fight for a playoff spot. If the season ended after McAlester’s 49-0 win Oct. 5 at Tulsa Hale, the Buffs would not be in the playoffs due to district points.
Bishop Kelley is in first place in District 5A-3 going into this week with a 3-0 district record. McAlester shares a 2-1 district record with Ada, Coweta and Tulsa Edison. McAlester lost to Ada, 38-13, Sept. 28, hosts the Tigers on Friday and is scheduled to play Tulsa Edison on the road Oct. 18. Edison has 19 district points, whereas Ada and Coweta have 15 district points. The Buffs have four.
Singleton said the district this year is as competitive as it has ever been. He said the coaches told the players that the loss to Ada hurts McAlester’s pride more than anything because it’s a rivalry, but that it wasn’t an end-all game as there’s lots of football left to play.
He called Coweta an “outstanding” football team. The Buffs lost, 24-7, to the Tigers in 2017, with Spencer Harrington carrying the ball 19 times for 191 yards and one touchdown. Harrington is back for his senior year, but the Buffs are keying in on junior Jearvah’n Chatman, Singleton said. He cited Chatman as a bruiser, saying the Buffs need to gang-tackle because of how he can gain yards after contact.
Another player the Tigers have back this year is junior quarterback J.D. Geneva, who, according to an Aug. 14 article from the Tulsa World, cracked a kneecap that ended his football season last year. The Buffs did not see him in 2017, as the graduated Logan Haught was under center instead.
Singleton said the Tigers run and pass, but noticed Coweta prefers to throw the football on film. He said he hopes to make the Tigers one dimensional and force them to throw the football, even if they prefer to utilize the passing game.
One player Singleton called electric was junior Thomas Ivy, who plays both receiver and cornerback for the Tigers. Singleton cited Ivy as a “lockdown guy” and said there will be situations where the Buffs try to pass away from him, but they will have to go at him at times. He called on his receivers, senior Trent Pickens, junior Colby Squyres and sophomore Gavin Johnson to match Ivy up and be physical and make plays if there are any 50-50 balls thrown.
Singleton said that defensively, Coweta does not make a ton of mistakes. He said the Tigers do not allow their opposition to stretch the field vertically, and therefore, some adjustments will have to be made within the passing game, with him saying there will be some short to intermediate routes.
“Obviously, we like to stretch the field vertically to help open up our running game,” Singleton said. “...They’re going to make that quite a challenge. Now, if they decide to put extra safeties in the box to stop our run game, then obviously that gives us opportunities to play action pass to get the ball down the field.”
The Buffs started sophomore Jadin Tran at guard in the win against the Rangers. Singleton said Tran has things to work on, but played well for his first varsity start. Senior A.J. Buckley was going both ways as a guard and rotating on defense, but Singleton decided to put Tran at the spot and move Buckley to defense full time.
“We wanted to be able to get him more quality snaps on defense,” Singleton said of Buckley. “...We feel like we really need him to be that sledgehammer for us on defense and be able to be out there the whole time.”
Singleton told the News-Capital Monday nobody is out for McAlester this week.
His main focus through this point forward is not so much for McAlester to focus on its opponent, but rather itself.
“If each person improves during the week, it should show Friday night,” he said.