Tahlequah Daily Press

November 8, 2013

Up in the air

Sequoyah’s playoff future depends on must-win game against Bulldogs

By BEN JOHNSON
Sports Editor

bjohnson@tahlequahdailypress.com

Sequoyah’s 34-point loss to Jay on Oct. 25 was rough. Yet, it paled in comparison to last week’s 57-0 thrashing at the hands of Hilldale.

Guess that, though. It doesn’t matter anymore.

“Last week, Hilldale’s experience showed,” Sequoyah head coach Shane Richardson said. “We couldn’t stop the dam from breaking on us and that was the result.”

The Indians had two options: one, dwell on the worst loss of the season, or, two, flush it from everyone’s memory back and move on.

The latter was clearly the way to go.

“In sports, sometimes you need a short memory,” Richardson said. “What’s done is done and we have a chance to continue.”

The Indians most certainly do.

Now Sequoyah’s season will be on the line when it travels to Tulsa to take on Lincoln Christian tonight at 7:30 at Dennis Byrd Stadium.

Once again, the Indians will be faced with two options: one, win — and by five points or more — and advanced to the playoffs, or, two, lose and move on to basketball, wrestling or power lifting.

Regardless, the postseason is here for the Indians — despite the official start of the playoffs on the horizon for next week.

“This week is basically a playoff game for us,” Richardson said. “It’s all about Lincoln Christian this week.”

Sequoyah (4-5, 2-3 District 3A-7) can knock off the Bulldogs and miss the playoffs. To secure a playoff berth, the Indians will have to win by five or more points. And a victory by 10 points or more would bump the Indians up to No. 3 in District 3A-7.

Anything less and Jay will nab the last vacancy in the 3A-7 playoff picture.

“We are aware of what we need to do in order to get in [the playoffs],” Richardson said.

The Indians will be facing a Lincoln Christian defense that was pulverized to the tune of 80 points last week in a loss to Locust Grove. Twice this season, the Bulldogs (5-4, 3-2) have given up at least 76 points (Seminole scored 76 in Week 1).

“They are better on defense than they are given credit for,” Richardson said of Lincoln Christian. “They have given up some plays here and there, but their schedule is tough. It’s deceiving.”

One player Sequoyah hopes to get going against the Bulldogs will be running back Justin Hooper. However, the Indians’ sophomore tailback has been held in check over the past two weeks by Hilldale and Jay.

“Justin is still playing hard; it’s not solely on one player,” Richardson said. “Moving the football calls for 11 individual tasks to be done on every play. We have played some really good defenses lately. It’s a team game.”

Lincoln Christian’s approach on offense is certainly team-centric. Micah Wilson is closing in on the 2,000-yard mark in the passing game, while Justin Flewellen has already eclipsed the 1,500-yard barrier on the ground.

“Flewellen is their guy, he makes them go,” Richardson said. “We have to tackle well this week. Wilson can throw the ball, too, and their offense is creative and they do a lot of stuff. Recognizing formations is the key.”

Just like winning by a handful or more is the key to prolonging Sequoyah’s season.

Sequoyah at Lincoln Christian

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: Dennis Byrd Stadium in Tulsa.

Radio: KTLQ, AM-1350.

Nicknames: Sequoyah Indians; Lincoln Christian Bulldogs.

Coaches: Sequoyah - Shane Richardson (first season, 4-5); Lincoln Christian - Darren Melton (12th season, 105-31).

Records: Sequoyah 4-5 (2-3 District 3A-7); Lincoln Christian 5-4 (3-2).

Rankings: Neither team is ranked in Class 3A.

Series record: Lincoln Christian leads Sequoyah 1-0.

Last meeting: In 2012, Sequoyah won an offensive slugfest with the Bulldogs, prevailing by a 63-40 result. The Indians’ Kyle Helsley ran for 265 yards on 14 carries for Sequoyah, which later had to forfeit the game due to penalties levied by the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association.

Last week: Hilldale 57, Sequoyah 0; Locust Grove 80, Lincoln Christian 41.

News to know: Lincoln Christian has already secured a playoff spot in 3A. The Bulldogs can finish either third or fourth, based on the outcome of tonight’s game. ... Sequoyah can finish third in 3A-7 (with Lincoln Christian fourth) with a win by at least 10 points. The Indians would finish fourth in the district (and Lincoln Christian third) with a win by five to nine points. The Indians will miss the playoffs altogether with a loss or a win by four or less points. In that scenario, Lincoln Christian would finish third in 3A-7 and Jay would be fourth.

Players to watch

Sequoyah: Justin Hooper (RB).

- The Indians’ sophomore running back has logged 1,033 yards on 197 carries this season, but he’s only mustered 109 yards combined in Sequoyah’s back-to-back losses to Jay and Hilldale.

Lincoln Christian: Justin Flewellen (RB).

- The Bulldogs’ senior running back has racked up 1,532 yards and 16 touchdowns on 218 carries.

Looking ahead: Lincoln Christian will be playing in the Class 3A playoffs. Sequoyah could be, too, but that won’t be known until about 10:30 tonight.