HS FOOTBALL: Harmon, McAlester defense focused on better year

COREY STOLZENBACH | Staff PhotoMcAlester defensive coordinator Kevin Harmon talks defense with the News-Capital Aug. 8. 

McAlester going a combined 7-13 the past two years doesn’t sit well with players, fans or Kevin Harmon.

The longtime assistant witnessed a 4-6 season firsthand last year in his return to coaching after a hiatus in 2017. He’s taking on an expanded role this year in picking up the mantle to once again become the defensive coordinator for the Buffaloes after Taylor Barr left to become head coach at Savanna.

“It just drives me to want to go do something about it,” Harmon said. “That’s probably the attitude most of our kids need to have, too.” 

The Buffaloes are set to incorporate a 3-4 defense this year. Harmon wants his defenders to have their eyes on the football more.

He’s coached a number of schemes throughout the years. The Buffs were more of a 4-3 defense in the 1990s. McAlester has run a 50 defense and ran the 3-4 during the Bryan Pratt era. 

Former coach James Singleton emphasized stopping the run to force the opposition to pass, and Harmon feels the same way. He knows some quarterbacks can take advantage of run-stopping defenses, but said that’s not often the case in high school.

The Buffs have rematches with some of the teams who racked up a ton of rushing yardage against them in 2018. They allowed 283 rushing yards to Poteau last year, and gave up 203 yards and four touchdowns to Easton Francis in the first half alone. McAlester is scheduled to visit Poteau Sept. 13.

Tulsa Edison’s Sevion Morrison ran for 392 yards and seven touchdowns. Morrison is set to commit to an NCAA Division I program later this month, according to the Omaha-World Herald. The Buffs are set to welcome the Eagles Oct. 25. 

“If you’re playing man coverage, and you’re giving a guy like him (Morrison) a lot of space, and let’s say that the space is 15-20 yards, you’re not getting that guy down,” Harmon said. “...You’ve got to keep him corralled. You’ve got to get bodies around him.”

Harmon said turnovers this year will be a big emphasis for the defense. He said the goal is at least two turnovers per game, and finish with more than the opponent. Harmon added that getting a turnover is the defensive equivalent to scoring.

He said there will be rewards both in practices and after games for turnovers.

McAlester will have something new this year after each game, Harmon said. Whoever gets the most takeaways in a game will be awarded the title of Turnover King, and will get to keep a king’s crown in their locker for the next week. Harmon said the players will be free to wear it around their locker.

“It’s kind of a way to build camaraderie,” he said. “...A lot of kids will want to wear it, and a lot of kids will want to win it. It’s just kind of unique.” 

He said senior Parker Singleton had a big spring, and McAlester is expecting big things from him. Harmon also had praise for sophomore Chase Faber, and said senior Lane Jarrett has done a good job at cornerback.

However, he said every spot is on defense is open this year, and being a starter last year is not a guarantee for this year. He thinks the Buffs have more depth for 2019.

“You better play at a high level,” Harmon said. “You better play at the level that McAlester is expected to play defense. We have a standard we believe you’re supposed to play at. You better play at that level, or someone else will be in there for you.” 

Contact Corey Stolzenbach at cstolzenbach@mcalesternews.com