Record doesn’t reflect Mac’s success during 2017 campaign
MacArthur's season wasn't supposed to end this early.
Heading into the season, much hype surrounded the Highlanders program, and for good reason. Mac had become a powerhouse in Class 5A over the years, even winning a championship in 2014.
When you're talking about a team with a 36-3 record over a span of three seasons, there are some high expectations, not only for the team itself, but also from the media. The Highlanders' No. 3 preseason ranking in the Oklahoma High School Football Associated Press poll reflected that.
Needless to say, a third-straight District 5A-1 title and another deep playoff run were anticipated by many.
Instead, Mac suffered through its worst season since going 5-4 in 2001, finishing 6-5 and exiting the postseason scene in the first round for only the third time under coach Brett Manning.
However, this season was considered disappointing to only those who were unaware of the ongoing changes within the Mac program. The Highlanders lost their top three offensive producers from 2016 Anthony Love-Kemper, Teddy Thomas and Ronnie Kimble to graduation.
To make matters worse, the defense lost an unprecedented eight starters. The only returning starters were Chandler Green (linebacker), Rylan Webb (safety) and Brandon Lawton (defensive tackle).
Even with the missing pieces, I couldn't pick against a team that made the semifinals three of the previous four seasons. I gave Mac the benefit of the doubt, picking it to win the district again, despite Ardmore and Altus lurking in the shadows.
Of course, Mac ended up not winning the district that privilege belonged to Ardmore. But that is not the thing everyone should focus on when evaluating this season's performance.
No, the most important part is the resiliency the Highlanders showed despite facing an uncommon season.
Mac rebounded from two blowout losses to Lawton High and Amarillo Tascosa in pre-district play by winning five of its next seven, earning itself a 16th-straight playoff berth.
Even in their two losses to Del City and Altus, the Highlanders were in position to win at the end. If not for some untimely turnovers, Mac could've easily come out on top in those contests.
Mac has long been a consistent program, and I don't see this anomaly of a season to be a sign of things to come. The Highlanders had many young and inexperienced starters this year.
Yes, no team desires a 6-5 finish, and it shouldn't necessarily be celebrated, either. However, there are many positives Mac can take moving forward, especially when you consider how the team finished.
The Highlanders played their best football in the final five weeks of the season, most notably on defense.
The Mac defense gave up 17 touchdowns of 44 yards or more through the first six games, 14 of which came from midfield or beyond. The Highlanders gave up more than 37 points per game during that stretch.
It was a harsh reality of the growing pains the Highlanders were experiencing for the first time since perhaps Manning's first season at the helm in 2009.
However, in the last four games of the regular season, no teams including top-five squads Altus and Ardmore were able to manage plays of that variety. In fact, Mac allowed only 232 yards per the game to close the regular season, holding opponents to a total of 62 points, or 15.5 points per game.