HS FOOTBALL: Blaze Baugh breaks out in senior season

Nov. 30—Blaze Baugh held up a finger after scoring the go-ahead touchdown to clinch a spot in the state title game before his teammates whooped, hugged and chest-bumped him on the sideline.

The McAlester senior put up 258 rushing yards — the fifth-highest single-game performance in program history — last week to lift the Buffs to another state championship appearance set for this Saturday.

He transferred to McAlester for his senior season and sat back quietly in the first few weeks to observe — but Baugh came out of his shell throughout the season and made a name for himself to help the Buffs make a second consecutive state title appearance.

"I didn't go to school here last year, but it's a great feeling," Baugh said. "Everybody seems excited to be back, and everybody's motivated."

Baugh learned to love football at an early age and grew up playing with his brother Kyler Baugh, who is a defensive lineman for the Minnesota Gophers.

The family originally attended school in Talihina, but the school cut its football program for this season due to lack of participation.

So Baugh transferred to another place with family connections in football — McAlester. Baugh's cousin Zach is a 2015 graduate of McAlester, and has returned to his alma mater as an assistant coach.

"I liked the facilities, and my cousin's a coach here," he said of reasons for choosing McAlester.

Baugh's quiet, reserved nature melted away throughout the season into a bastion of confidence as he exploded for 651 yards and six scores on 85 carries.

He stepped up in a bigger way in last week's 39-29 win over Bishop McGuinness to help send McAlester to the state championship.

Oklahoma commit and McAlester's all-time career rushing touchdowns leader Erik McCarty suffered a season-ending knee injury and was out against McGuinness.

But Baugh took over McCarty's duties — exploding for 258 yards and three scores for the fifth-best single-game rushing performance in school history.

McAlester coach Forrest Mazey described Baugh as a bowling ball, and said he rose to the occasion when his team needed him.

The historic performance brought Baugh the attention of the University of Central Oklahoma, offering the McAlester senior a scholarship just days later. Baugh has always had dreams of playing college football, and is now one step closer to that reality.

"He's built freakishly. He's a grown man," Mazey said. "I'm proud of him. He was a Mack truck (against McGuinness). Loved it, loved it."

Now Baugh will play on the state's biggest stage with a chance to end his high school career as a champion.

Even though he's only been in McAlester one season, he said he knows how much this moment means for the community to play in back-to-back state championships.

McAlester won state titles in 1968 and 1988, and finished as the state runner-up in 1996, 2013 and last year.

Baugh said he expected the Buffs to play in December — and knew it was possible from the moment he joined the team.

"I expected us to make it to the state title (game)," he said. "First day I came (to McAlester), I knew we had the potential to make it.

"We just never quit," he added.

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