Three years is a long time for McAlester to not host a playoff game.
McAlester last hosted a playoff game on Nov. 18, 2016 — a 42-26 quarterfinals loss to third-ranked and eventual state champion Carl Albert — and has a chance to end that streak with Friday’s game at Bishop Kelley set to determine which team finishes second in District 5A-3.
“It’s a big game and hopefully the kids are up to the task because it’ll be a good Kelley team,” McAlester football coach Forrest Mazey said. “And here’s what’s crazy is Kelley is playing for the same thing.”
If McAlester (4-4, 4-2) wins, it would tie Kelley (6-3, 5-1) in the district standings but would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker. If the Buffs lose, they could end up anywhere from third to out of the playoffs.
Bishop Kelley has secured a playoff spot even with a loss, but point differential would determine if the Comets finish third or fourth.
Mazey said the Buffs will have to stay focused to reach the playoff for the first time in three years.
“They’ve seen some playoff teams, but they’ve never been a playoff team,” Mazey said. “So we’re getting these kids to understand what that means and how even the possibility to host how special that is and you hope they take advantage of that.”
McAlester holds the advantage with a 18-6 all-time record against Bishop Kelley. The Buffs took a 35-6 win in the first-ever matchup with Bishop Kelley in 1968, which is also the first year they won a state championship.
Bishop Kelley took a 49-7 win in last year’s matchup that ended a three-year winning streak for McAlester in the series.
Bishop Kelley lost Oklahoma State commit Zach Middleton and Army commit Cori Lewis, but the Comets are still ranked ninth following last week’s 41-38 win in the last minutes against Coweta.
“They’re maybe not what Bishop Kelley was to start the year, but they’re still dangerous,” Mazey said.
Comets quarterback Stephen Collins has thrown for 1,571 yards and 18 touchdowns — including four last week against Coweta.
Receiver Jeremiah Besses caught three of those touchdown passes to break a school record on four receptions for 185 yards. Tight end Cooper McMurray added a late score against Coweta and Mazey said he is an example of multiple weapons the Comets still have available.
“They have the big tight end; they have some good athletes on the edge, their defense is comprised of mostly seniors and their quarterback is a really good athlete too,” Mazey said.
“We going to have to play hard; we’re going to have to play disciplined; we’re going to have to play four quarters of football as well,” Mazey added. “We can’t have a half and then another half. We can’t have two different halves; it’s got to be complimentary from the first kickoff.”
Mazey said he’s confident in McAlester’s defense after allowing just 41 total yards and getting two pick-sixes and fumble recovery in last week’s 40-0 win against Glenpool.
He said the offense will need more consistency and not rely on big plays every down.
“When we’re consistent, we’re pretty good — when we’re not consistent, we’re pretty average,” Mazey said.
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