Sequoyah has been dealt a crushing blow just days before their biggest game of the season.
Eight Sequoyah football players and a coach have been ruled ineligible for Friday night’s football game at Hilldale, according to a press release from the school on Tuesday afternoon.
The infractions, levied by the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association, come a month after a Sequoyah softball player was ruled ineligible by the OSSAA.
“We are fully cooperating with the association to resolve any eligibility questions that may remain and look forward to resolving this matter as quickly as possible for our students,” said Marcus Crittenden, athletic director at Sequoyah Schools. “We want to make it clear that none of the students were at fault in these alleged infractions.”
The infraction stems from a violation of a rule governing summer camp participation. According to the OSSAA rulebook, athletes are not allowed to participate in individual camps where expenses are paid for by the players' "school, by school personnel or by any booster group or organization associated with the school, or by any non-family member."
An appeal of the OSSAA’s decision will be heard Nov. 7 at the OSSAA’s monthly board of directors meeting in Oklahoma City.
In the release from Cherokee Nation, the coach who was suspended was not identified. But the Tahlequah Daily Press learned Tuesday evening that Sequoyah head coach Brent Scott was the one who had been handed the suspension.
Also omitted from the release were names of players.
“Since they are minors, we are not releasing names,” said Julie Hubbard, Cherokee Nation’s communications supervisor.
However, a source told the Tahlequah Daily Press late Tuesday afternoon that among the eight players suspended are quarterback Brayden Scott, wide receiver/outside linebacker Niko Hammer, defensive tackle Greyden Elrod, reserve tailback/linebacker Karter Woodruff, and offensive tackle/reserve defensive end Mvhayv Locust.
Scott, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound quarterback who is committed to the University of Memphis, has completed 59.6 percent (90 of 151) of his passes for 1,379 yards and 26 touchdowns this season. He also holds the school record for touchdown passes.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Scott said on his Twitter account Tuesday afternoon. In a separate tweet, he followed that up with, “Don’t worry about things you can’t control.”
Hammer, the Indians’ leading receiver this season, has caught 30 passes for 410 yards and eight touchdowns. Woodruff, the Indians’ second-leading rusher in 2012, has compiled 459 yards and seven touchdowns on 40 carries.
On defense, Woodruff is Sequoyah’s leading tackler, with 29 tackles, 4-1/2 tackles for loss, 2-1/2 sacks and a fumble recovery. Elrod has chipped in with a team-leading six sacks and 13-1/2 tackles for loss. Colbert has added 10 tackles and four tackles for loss.
All of the players ruled ineligible have played in at least six games this season. The Indians are currently 7-1 overall and 4-0 in District 3A-7.
It didn't take long for the Indians' opponent this week to catch wind of the penalties handed out at Sequoyah.
“With the way things are with social media it doesn’t take long for it to get out and by then word had spread,” Hilldale coach Chad Kirkhart said. “It’s really a different kind of situation than we’ve ever had... You’re still playing for district, and so are they, so you’ve got to focus on what you’ve got to do. That doesn’t change.”
Leroy Qualls, superintendent of Sequoyah Schools, said officials don’t yet know whether any of this season’s games would be forfeited.
“There’s a possibility, but I hate to say that before facts come out,” Qualls said.
The ineligibility of Sequoyah football players surfaced nearly a month after the school was forced to vacate its 2011 slow-pitch state championship. That came on the heels of the denial of a retroactive appeal for eligibility by Sequoyah softball/basketball player Kelsey Leach.
Qualls told the Daily Press that eligibility issues at Sequoyah popped up before the current school year started.
“From what we can tell, this has been looked at back in the early summer and late spring,” Qualls said. “It was already in the process of being looked at when (I) took the job in the summer.”
The football suspensions sent shockwaves throughout Cherokee Nation, with Principal Chief Bill John Baker weighing in via Todd Hembree, the Cherokee Nation attorney general.
“Chief Baker has instructed my office and the Cherokee Nation to use every resource we have throughout the appeal process,” Hembree said. “The chief and I find it unconscionable that students and families are being punished for the actions of adults who should have followed the rules.
Sequoyah has been dealt a crushing blow just days before their biggest game of the season.
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