Special to The Sun
The Deer Creek Antlers couldn’t keep up with the McAlester Buffaloes on Friday night, losing an upset in the second round of the Class 5A state playoffs 35-27.
“The best way to beat our offense is not let them on the field,” Deer Creek head coach Grant Gower said after the game.
After an early three-and-out by the Antlers, McAlester drove the ball 63 yards for a touchdown. Caden Pratt hooked up with Mason Bumphus on a 38-yard pass for the score to give the Buffaloes an early lead.
Deer Creek was forced to punt again, but a turnover on downs sparked the Antler offense. Led by Brennan Miyake’s rushing, Deer Creek got a touchdown pass from Joel Blumenthal to Alec James.
McAlester answered with a score from nine yards out on a pass to Jarome Smith to take a 14-7 lead. Blumenthal thought he had the answer after running 69 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the drive, but the referees called a holding penalty. Deer Creek punted three plays later.
With 5:34 left to go in the second quarter, the Buffaloes pushed the lead to two touchdowns after a 17-yard pass from Pratt to Cade Harkins, McAlester 21 to Deer Creek’s 7. The ensuing kickoff was a very high and short kick and the Antlers were like deer in headlights as Taylor Mullins recovered for the Buffaloes. McAlester would turn the ball over on downs for the second time in as many quarters with 1:30 to play in the first half.
Two plays into the next possession for Deer Creek and Blumenthal was off to the races again. This time the quarterback ran 85 yards for the touchdown to cut the lead to 21-14 with 1:09 to play in the second quarter. McAlester ran the clock out attempting to score again and at halftime the score remained 21-14.
Blumenthal was just 2-of-4 in the first half with 34 yards passing but did most of his work with his feet. The senior quarterback had 106 yards rushing on only three carries. Miyake added 28 yards on the ground in the half.
“It starts with Joel,” Gower said. “He’s a tremendous leader.”
Into the second half and the Buffaloes looked to take a commanding lead. Their opening drive doubled the score after nine minutes and 26 seconds of offense from McAlester. A 20-yard touchdown pass from Pratt to Tyler Curry and the score was 28-14. Deer Creek turned the ball over on downs on the following possession but the Buffaloes would punt the ball back to the Antlers.
A key fourth-and-1 conversion on their own 24-yard line sparked the ensuing drive for the Antlers as the third quarter came to an end with the score still 28-14. Two plays later and James took a handoff and ran six yards for the touchdown to pull Deer Creek to within a score, 28-21.
The Buffaloes failed a fourth-down conversion attempt with an incomplete pass and the Antlers had the ball with 8:00 minutes to play and an opportunity to close the gap. The Antlers drove 70 yards and got a touchdown run from Blumenthal from two yards out to make the score 28-27 with 3:45 to go. However, McAlester blocked the extra point to maintain the lead. Deer Creek attempted an onside kick but the Buffaloes recovered at their own 42.
“We didn’t wrap up and tackle like we needed to do,” Gower said.
A touchdown run by Pratt from 30 yards out sealed the deal to send McAlester to the Class 5A semifinals and end the season for Deer Creek.