McFarlane learned to despise Durant earlier than most Tigers

East Central’s Jackson McFarlane, a graduate of Ada High School, proudly holds on to the Great American Classic travel trophy after the Tigers defeated arch-rival Southeastern 30-28 last weekend at Paul Laird Field in Durant.

There is no love lost between East Central University athletes and those playing for bitter rival Southeastern. That’s been proven, oh, around 100 years or so.

However, when one of those ECU players is an Ada High School graduate — like RS junior receiver Jackson McFarlane — the disdain for all things Durant starts early.

McFarlane and his Tiger teammates ended the 2021 season on a high note, defeating the Savage Storm in a 30-28 Great American Conference thriller last Saturday at Paul Laird Field in Durant.

Southeastern was coming off a convincing 35-21 thumping of No. 5 Ouachita Baptist and had a playoff game in their sites with a victory over the dreaded Tigers. But things didn’t quite go according to the SE plan.

McFarlane constantly flashed his signature smile throughout the 100 Year War postgame celebration and was thrilled to be a part of ECU’s victory over the evil regime formerly known as the Savages. It was nearly as fun as beating the Durant Lions as the quarterback of the Cougar football team. In 2017, McFarlane helped the Cougars advance to the Class 4A state championship game.

“Growing up in Ada, you hate Durant in everything. I’ve beaten them in high school and I’ve beaten them in college. It’s better beating them in college, especially today when, if they won, they were going to the playoffs,” McFarlane told The Ada News. “Durant’s always been a little brother. I’ve learned to hate Durant growing up so it means a little more to me.”

East Central played well in all three phases of the game to secure the victory. The Tiger defense held off a last-ditch effort by the Savage Storm to try and get into field goal range for a game-winning attempt.

“When we play complementary football, it’s pretty hard to beat us,” McFarlane said.

“There’s been some times when we’ve let that down, but today we picked it up. Our defense was getting some stops and we were scoring. Whenever we weren’t scoring the defense was getting stops,” he continued. “It’s really hard to beat a team that is playing together like that.”

It very well might have been the last collegiate football game of McFarlane’s career. If it was, he had enjoyed the ride and couldn’t think of a better way to leave the game he’s loved since junior high behind.

As of around 5 p.m. last Saturday, he wasn’t sure what the future holds regarding ECU football.

“Man, I really want to take some time to think about it because I graduate in December. I’m going to see how my body feels and go from there,” he said.

A victory in the Great American Classic, especially one like East Central enjoyed Saturday, helped keep the football door open.

“It’s really had to say no after you win like this,” he said.

McFarlane finished the season as ECU quarterback Kenny Krncir’s favorite target, hauling in a team-high 26 catches for 262 yards and two touchdowns. If the Tigers need a complete for a first town, you can bet McFarlane was one of the first receivers Hrncir looked to in his progression. He also carved himself in a niche as one of ECU’s top kick returners. He hauled in eight kickoffs for 107 yards and caught two punts for 43 yards.

Throughout his college career, McFarlane said playing at Paul Laird field is among his greatest memories. He can feel fans full of despise and boy can the get rowdy.  And he loves every minute of it.

“It’s crazy coming down here. It’s the best environment I’ve played in during college,” he said. “It’s crazy. I’ve never played in a place like this. It’s always fun.”

Saturday’s victory was likely the most fun ever.

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Jeff Cali has been covering sports in the Ada area since the mid-90s. He graduated from Byng High School and earned a bachelor’s degree from East Central University.

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