Monday Morning QB – Recapping Small School Battles from Week 1 in the McAlester Area

Last Updated: September 5, 20236.5 min read

After some exciting matchups in Week 1, here’s my take on some games played on the football field in Southeast Oklahoma this week.

Hartshorne Miners vs. Wilburton Diggers

In this yearly “Battle of Gowen Mountain,” Hartshorne came out victorious over the Diggers, owning the mountain with a score of 52-9. The Miners hosted Wilburton for the first time in two years, and they made a point to let the Diggers know who would dominate the rivalry for the 2023 season.

I was impressed with the Miners and how they approached this rivalry game after a crushing late-game loss to Henryetta last week. Hartshorne took the field with purpose and were on a mission this week to assert their dominance over Wilburton. This game was personal.

The Battle of Gowen Mountain between the Hartshorne Miners and the Wilburton Diggers was a game filled with thrilling moments and impressive plays. It all began with an early fumble by Hartshorne, which allowed Wilburton to recover in their own territory. However, Hartshorne’s strong defense, led by Acetin Rowell, quickly turned the tide with a pick-six, giving them a 6-0 lead with 8:58 left in the 1st quarter.

Hartshorne’s defense struggled to contain Wilburton’s Troy Clark and QB Braiden Grossnicklaus in the 1st quarter, but Benny Mattioda managed to force a fumble, leading to a turnover on downs. Jackson Moody, Kelby Thomason, and Kannen Osier contributed to Hartshorne’s offensive success, and Moody connected with tight-end Malachi Sunagoowie for a touchdown pass, extending their lead to 12-0 by the end of the 1st quarter.

The 2nd quarter saw Hartshorne’s Brett Lindley and others stepping up with key tackles. Despite penalties, Hartshorne’s offense continued to excel, with Moody throwing a touchdown pass to Carter Johnson, making it 18-0. Wilburton struggled against Hartshorne’s defense, and Johnson’s tackle on a punt return pinned them deep. Acetin Rowell easily scored another touchdown, increasing the lead to 26-0.

Wilburton’s Clark continued to show his running prowess, but Hartshorne’s defense, led by Treyce Morgan and Cody Sanders, stood strong. Jayvon Leckelt was also a force for Wilburton on the defensive side of the ball with crucial tackles. Hartshorne’s Thomason made a memorable run for a touchdown, making it 32-0 by halftime.

The 3rd quarter saw Hartshorne’s Mattioda making a crucial sack, leading to a turnover on downs. Hartshorne’s defense remained dominant, while Thomason’s impressive runs set up another touchdown, extending the lead to 46-0.

In the 4th quarter, Thomason’s 74-yard run added to Hartshorne’s lead, making it 52-0. Wilburton managed a field goal, but their late surge wasn’t enough to overcome Hartshorne’s lead. The final score was 52-9, a resounding victory for the Hartshorne Miners in the Battle of Gowen Mountain.

“We expected to do that against Wilburton,” Head Coach Williams said. “We didn’t play to the best of our ability and started out a little slow, but thankful for this win.”

The Miners will host the Heavener Wolves at home this Friday, and the Diggers will play the Panama Razorbacks in Wilburton.

Hartshorne Miners vs. Wilburton Diggers, 9/1/2023. Photo: Kristi Lindley

McAlester Buffs vs. Prescott Curley Wolves

The Buffs, in their home opener, played the Prescott Curley Wolves, as they traveled over three hours to face off against McAlester in the heart of Southeast Oklahoma.

I think the Buffs played well, but not to their full potential. From watching games last season, I am still waiting on this highly-competitive team to show what they are truly capable of on the gridiron. With a defense like McAlester has, I’m ready to see the offense be just as explosive.

In the final minutes, the two sides continued their fierce battle without relent. Quarterback Caden Lesnau played well, throwing the ball well for needed yards. The Buffs came out strong against Prescott, with their defense ultimately winning the close game for them with a score of 17-13.

With 184 yards gained on 25 carries and two touchdowns, Watkins was the Buffs’ top performer. In the ground assault, Jordan Clark gained 49 yards.

Watkins was the top receiver with 38 yards on the 57 yards of passing yards by Lesnau.

Prescott was limited to just 26 yards of offense in the first half by the Buffs Defense, and the Curley Wolves were limited to just 69 rushing yards for the whole of the game.

“I thought our kids found another way to win another close game,” Head Coach Mazey said. “When it came down to us making a play in the end to win, it the kids found a way.”

The Buffs’ will face the Cougars in their yearly rivalry matchup against Ada on Sept. 8.

McAlester Buffs vs. Prescott Curley Wolves, 9/1/2023

Savanna Bulldogs vs. Warner Eagles

The Bulldogs traveled to Warner to take on the Eagles for their first regular season game of the 2023 football schedule. The Eagles took the W, 61-8.

With this being a non-district contest, Savanna was the underdog in this matchup. From my perspective, the Eagles controlled the game with dominance, grinding up the clock and having key plays on both sides of the ball. However, the Bulldogs didn’t give up and were giving it their all until the final seconds.

These non-district meets are where players improve against quality competition. Coach Cherry also shared this mindset and felt like his team learned a lot during this difficult game.

“We got hit hard early and didn’t respond well, we need to improve on that,” Cherry said. Kinyon Burge and Keaton Harkey had some nice catches against Warner. Madden Smith made good decisions at quarterback and had some good throws.

Savanna’s defense has to get more aggressive and make plays when they have the opportunity, according to Cherry.

The Bulldogs will take on the Canadian Cougars at home this Friday for another non-district matchup.

Savanna Bulldogs vs. Warner Eagles, 9/1/2023. Photo: Jill Ward

Quinton Savages vs. Wetumka Chieftains

The Savages traveled to Wetumka to take on the Chieftains in their first regular season game.

Quinton entered this encounter unfavored because it was a non-district contest with a much larger opponent. From my view, the Chieftains commanded the game, burning time and making crucial plays on offense and defense. The Savages didn’t give up, though, and continued to fight to the end with everything they had.

After talking with Head Coach Haynie, he feels that his team needs to improve but was also aware of the difference in the two teams. Players get better against top competition in these non-district contests. Coach Haynie acknowledged this and thought that his players learned a great deal from this challenging encounter.

“We need to improve in most areas,” Haynie said. “Eli Blankenship played well at quarterback and Bo Wagnon had a good game at tight end for us as well.” With faith in his team, Haynie is optimistic as the season progresses.

The Savages will host the Keota Lions for another non-district game this Friday.

I am so excited to be covering SE Oklahoma, my home! If you have any information to share on your team or you would like to recommend specific school coverage in the Southeast Area, please email me at

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If you’re interested in reading more content about high school sports in Southeast Oklahoma, check out The Battle of Gowen Mountain: Seniors Reflect Hours Before Their Last Clash!

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