When the final horn sounded last Friday night at Hook Eales Stadium in McAlester, a celebration 11 years in the making took place.
“They’ve been congratulating not only me but the players the past couple of days because this is something that hasn’t been accomplished before,” said second-year head coach Ra’Shaud Buie.
This season has provided a lot of milestones for the Buffaloes, who are in their 11th year of fielding a soccer team. Along with qualifying for state for the first time, they won the Wagoner Tournament for the first time since 2018. On March 24th, they claimed the program’s first-ever win over a 6A school by beating Muskogee on penalty kicks.
“We started the year 4-0 and the fifth game we lost, so we went into that Muskogee game coming off our first loss,” recalled Buie. “Honestly, it could have gone one of two ways. We were either going to bounce back and have that be a wake-up call or it could have been the beginning of the end. It was definitely a wake-up call for them and a reality check. We got locked back in and focused on the little things and they played really hard. Being able to win in PKs, it was an amazing feeling to pick up a win against a big school like that.”
Despite losing 10 seniors to graduation last season and having just two seniors on this year’s roster, McAlester has been playing like a tight, experienced unit. Buie credits off-the-field, team building activities for bringing the team closer together.
Leading the charge offensively for McAlester this season has been electrifying sophomore Ronaldo Martinez. Martinez has 10 goals and added eight assists for the Buffs. Also providing some scoring punch has been Cameron Giacoma, who’s added six goals and four assists.
Defensively, senior defender Christian Fabian has been a steady influence for the Buffaloes. Junior goalkeeper Brandon McDaniel has also taken a major step forward this season.
“He’s really developed this season,” claimed Buie about McDaniel. “He often gets compliments from other coaches and other players. Other people seem to notice him just as much as I do.”
McAlester, 11-4 and 4-3 in district play, makes its state playoff debut next week against Tulsa Will Rogers. The Ropers will be a formidable opponent for the Buffaloes after winning District 5A-4 with a 7-0 record and finishing with an overall mark of 12-1.
“I’ve already told them that we’re fine skill-wise and development-wise,” claimed Buie. “We just have to be mentally strong when we go out on the field because it’s our mental mistakes that hurt us. We have to be engaged for a full 80 minutes and rely on our instincts and make the right decisions. I think they’re going to be just fine as long as they stay focused.”
Regardless of how they do in the playoffs, this season has been a memorable one for McAlester. When asked what he’ll remember most about this year’s squad, Buie pointed to their determination and will to win.
“Just their passion most of all, because after the first couple of losses we had this year, they were really emotional,” said Buie. “It’s how much they cared. I think that’s what sets them apart from past teams. You have to believe in each other and fight the same fight. That’s what’s made them successful.”