GAMEDAY: McAlester to open district at rival Durant

KEVIN HARVISON | Staff File PhotoMcAlester senior quarterback Chris Hilton (5) attempts a pass in the rain during last year's 27-23 win against rival Durant. The Buffs are scheduled to visit the Lions on Friday in a rivalry that first began play in 1915. 

McAlester coach Forrest Mazey said the intensity has increased this week as it's the District 5A-3 opener.

"Every game, every point matters in district play," Mazey said, citing McAlester missing the playoffs due to a tiebreaker. "There is an urgency when you're talking about district play. You want to be ahead of the eight ball, not behind the eight ball." 

The first-year coach of the Buffaloes (0-2) added that every game in district play is of the same importance. 

Friday night at Durant marks a return to action for the Buffs, whose game was cancelled due to weather Sept. 20 at Ardmore. They last played Sept. 13 in a 33-3 loss at Poteau. 

The Lions (0-3) have played one more game than the Buffs, most recently dropping a 30-7 loss Sept. 19 at Class 4A Broken Bow, but Mazey said the one-game difference doesn't really make a difference.

He is familiar with Durant, having played them all four years when he coached at Poteau. Mazey went 3-1 against the Lions. 

Some of the skill players the Buffs will try to stop include sophomore running back Francisco Avila. 

Mazey described Avila as someone who runs downhill. McAlester has allowed 567 rushing yards in two games. He said the defense will be fine if they can manage not give up the big play. The Pirates scored four rushing touchdowns against the Buffs, and three of them came on a run of 54 yards or more. 

They'll also be tasked with dealing with a offensive line and defensive line with some size. One notable for the Lions is senior center Cooper McCoy, who was named to the VYPE Top 100. Senior Parker Singleton earned this honor for the Buffs.

Mazey said he wasn't trying to focus on matching up one person against McCoy. He added that he's focused on working the defense as a whole, and not doing anything in particular to stop one offensive lineman.

He said on Wednesday the offensive line, defensive line and secondary have all had a good week at that point. It was hard for him to gauge the skill positions, though, because weather during the first couple of days forced the Buffs to practice in their indoor facility instead.

He said senior offensive lineman Anthony Lee is due back on Friday for his McAlester debut. 

Mazey said moving indoors did not impact the practice agenda in any way. He added the team got some passing in on Monday, while Tuesday was run-heavy.

The game is scheduled to be played at Southeastern Oklahoma State University's Paul Laird Field. Some believe Durant to be second only to Ada as McAlester's biggest rival.

The Buffs and Lions first matched up in 1915, which ended in a 6-6 tie.

Durant almost defeated McAlester last year in back-to-back years for the first time since 1991-1992, but a touchdown reception from senior Colby Squyres on fourth down in the fourth quarter pushed the Buffs across the finish line for a 27-23 victory at Hook Eales Stadium.

McAlester will try have another winning streak going against its rival. The Buffs won eight in a row from 2009-2016. 

Mazey pointed out McAlester historically racking up a ton of wins in the rivalry, but also noted the tight games between the two teams in recent memory. The Lions took a 34-30 game in 2017.

The coach sees a similarity between the two teams.

"You got two teams in the same boat," he said. "Now they're looking for their first win, but it's going to be in district play. So, it should be interesting." 

Contact Corey Stolzenbach at cstolzenbach@mcalesternews.com 

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