Jimmie Coleman couldn’t recall a highlight from last year’s effort.

“I think I had three TDs,” he said. 

Actually upon further review, it turned out to be two. Regardless, there was plenty of highlight yardage in that game, including an 88-yard run as part of a 166-yard, 12-carry effort against the McAlester Buffaloes.

On Friday, Coleman will try for a similar showing when the two teams meet at McAlester in what for now will be the last game of this segment of a rivalry that hops, skips and jumps over 111 years.

Coleman is the heart of a running game that is expected to be a strength. His line is more established and stronger through an off-season program, which should mean continued success moving the football this way.

Muskogee head football coach Rafe Watkins has compared it to the way he liked to do things very successfully at Guthrie in a tenure that won four state championships.

Getting one would be nice but for now, the objective is to go do what is expected game in, game out.

“I feel good about our run game and our run stopping game defensively,” Watkins said.

“With Jimmie and our two running back set along with Ty (Williams) being dual threat at quarterback, that definitely should be our bread and butter.”

It’ll be a running game coming at a Buffaloes defense that includes a familiar area name. Parker Singleton is a defensive tackle/end as well as fullback for the Buffs. He’s the youngest son of former McAlester head coach James Singleton, who stepped down after last season and is in administration. The elder Singleton was previously head coach at Fort Gibson and before that, a Roughers assistant.

“(The line) is the strength of their defense, without a doubt,” Watkins said.

The Buffs failed to make the playoffs the past two seasons. Forrest Mazey, who left Poteau after last season — making way for Greg Werner to return there from a year at Hilldale — replaced Singleton at the helm. Mazey, who actually replaced Werner after the latter went to Van Buren, Arkansas for a stint, reached the semifinals twice in 4A.

Defensively, Watkins is a bit concerned about pass protection. The safety valve there is Williams, who can move in and play safety, moving Kaunor Ashley, the most experienced guy back there, to corner. Williams is getting more attention as a safety by Division I coaches scouting him — with one, North Texas, offering him already. 

But moving Williams in there is not a full-time plan, at least not yet.

“We gave up a big pass last week and Tahlequah had some kids open that they just didn’t hit them,” Watkins said. “That concerns me. We did got a lot of pressure on them without stunting, which is important with the unit as it is right now. We need to get better back there, but with someone like Bixby (who put up 77 points in their season opener against Mansfield Timberview out of Texas) we’d put Ty back there.”

McAlester isn’t Bixby, but they do have Chris Hilton back as a third-year starter at quarterback, and a big physical line in front of him.

Again, it’ll be the last meeting of 78 meetings, the first coming in 1908 and the last three being by a combined score of 140-27 in favor of the locals. 

While the district alignments for 2020 and 2021 won’t be announced until February, the Buffs want to fill this slot with someone else. Watkins has already picked up Bentonville (Ark.) West in their spot for non-district the next two years.

The kickoff was 7 p.m. on original schedules. It was changed to 7:30 p.m. last week, as announced by Muskogee administration.

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