TULSA — Every McAlester drive except one ended in a touchdown.
Every Hale drive ended without a touchdown, unless you count the two McAlester scored off a punt-return and an interception.
McAlester quarterback Dalton Wood threw four touchdown passes in a short night for the first string, the Buffaloes easily shutting out the Rangers 63-0 on Friday at LaFortune Stadium in Tulsa.
“We came out and we played focused like we were supposed to,” Buffs coach Bryan Pratt said. “We knew if we did, then we would be dominant.”
The Buffs immediately made it clear the Rangers had no chance. Hale's opening drive lasted just three downs and ended 8 yards behind where it began.
McAlester then needed just three downs to score, with Cameron Hunter kicking off the drive with a 41-yard run off a sweep. Hunter got the Buffs to the Rangers 1-yard line with an 8-yard pass from Wood, and Wood then threw a screen pass to Kyle Morley for a touchdown and a quick 7-0 lead.
“If they covered one of the guys, then another one was going to be open, more than likely,” Wood said.
“Just faster and smarter and beat them.”
Hale's next possession also lasted just three downs, but this time McAlester didn't even have to go on offense. Hunter fielded Keonte Valentine's punt at McAlester's 43, then took off down the right sideline for a 57-yard punt-return touchdown with 6:28 left in the first quarter.
“We actually put in this week ‘return right,’ which everybody just runs back and sets up a block for the right side,” Hunter said. “I just kind of trusted them, and it worked out.”
Hunter added back-to-back touchdown receptions in the first quarter. His first, a 27-yarder, came after Zach Baugh returned an interception to the Hale 38.
Hunter's second, a 14-yarder, came when a bad snap forced Valentine to try to run on fourth-and-10. The Buffs forced Valentine out of bounds after just a 2-yard gain to the Hale 19.
“I don’t even know what they were doing,” Hunter said. “You could tell that they didn’t even want to be out here.”
The Rangers looked poised for a good drive when Valentine returned a kickoff 33 yards to midfield, but Wesley Countz knocked the ball loose and Morley recovered the kickoff. That set up a 13-yard pass from Wood to Tucker Curry — the only time McAlester's starters had to convert a third down — for a 35-0 lead late in the first quarter.
Hale responded to Curry’s touchdown with its only good drive of the night. The Rangers picked up four first downs in a 14-play drive, with Aaron Blackwell's 24-yard pass to Eugene Eckels putting the ball at the McAlester 1-yard line.
A bad snap forced Blackwell to take a 1-yard loss on first down, characterizing a night in which the Rangers finished with minus-11 rushing yards. Blackwell dropped back to pass on second-and-goal, but Baugh intercepted him about a yard into the end zone.
Baugh then sprinted the entire length of the field for a 101-yard touchdown. Hale's next drive ended when Countz jarred the ball loose from receiver Israel Masker and Victor Mills grabbed the fumble, then Deon Smith broke off a 32-yard touchdown run to make it 49-0 Buffs with 3:59 left in the second quarter.
“I thought (Blackwell) was going to throw it to the guy I was man-pressed on, but they threw it to the tight end,” Baugh said of his pick-six. “I just happened to be right there.”
The game clock started running nonstop following Smith’s touchdown, a gesture meant to shorten an already-decided game, decrease the risk of injury and avoid totally humiliating the losing team. McAlester's JV played the final defensive drive of the first half, then preserved the varsity's shutout through the entire second half.
“We couldn’t run it, so all we could try to do was take what we could get on the pass,” Hale coach Tony Peters said.
“Defensively, they’re pretty solid.”
The JV scored twice against Hale, with Smith scoring on a 5-yard touchdown run late in the third and quarterback Chase McNutt scoring on a 9-yard touchdown run late in the fourth. The Buffs also forced two second-half turnovers, with Heith Hatridge recovering a fumble and Jonathan Herrick grabbing an interception.
McNutt, a sophomore, scored his first touchdown in a varsity game.
“I saw (the defensive end) just standing there, and I figured if I pulled it I could make a move on him,” McNutt said. “And when I pulled it, he stopped and went inside, so there was no one there. It was a free lane.”
The win improved McAlester to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in district play this season. Wins by Skiatook and Shawnee created a three-way tie with McAlester for first in District 5A-3, with the Buffs currently leading with the best point-differential.
But even if McAlester wins its last two games, Skiatook would still need to lose to give the Buffs a district title and two playoff games at home. McAlester hosts Shawnee on Friday.
Hale fell to 0-8 with the loss.
Contact Matt Goisman at email@example.com.