Tahlequah Daily Press

October 25, 2013

Plenty at stake

Indians enter crucial 3-game stretch to end regular season

Sports Editor

— bjohnson@tahlequahdailypress.com

The first seven weeks of Sequoyah’s season has been a rough draft. The complete novel will be told over the course of the next three contests.

It all starts tonight for the Indians, who venture north to Jay for a District 3A-7 clash at 7:30 with plenty on the line.

“The game has a lot of implications for both teams,” Sequoyah head coach Shane Richardson said. “Our players and coaches have done a great job putting us in position to accomplish some goals in the home stretch of the regular season. But this week is all about Jay.”

Entering the game at 4-3 overall and 2-1 in 3A-7, Sequoyah has its playoff destiny in its hands with three games left on the docket in the regular season.

All the Indians need is a repeat of their 2012 game with Jay. Sequoyah running back Robert Smith torched the Bulldogs for 146 yards, and the Indians took advantage in a 46-24 victory.

Smith may be gone, but the Indians have Justin Hooper to carry the load on the ground this year. Hooper has 914 yards and seven touchdowns on 168 carries this year.

Quarterback Zach Parish has also been instrumental on offense for the Indians, logging 1,262 yards and 19 touchdowns on 80 completions (out of 173 attempts).

“Ideally, we want balance on offense,” Richardson said of his team’s offensive approach. “Our goal every game is to establish a physical presence at the line of scrimmage and use our playmakers in the passing game, as well.”

Sequoyah may need very little from the offense if its defense continues its recent run of dominance. In the previous three games, the Indians have allowed a total of 13 points. Each one those games have resulted in blowout victories — 34-0 against Keys; 41-6 vs. Westville; 28-7 over Sperry.

“I’m proud of our defense,” said Richardson, whose defense is allowing 24.7 points per game with a plus-seven advantage in turnover margin this season. “Those kids are playing with great effort and doing a good job in overall pursuit of the ball.”

Posting an average of 18.6 points per game this season, Jay has recorded mostly pedestrian numbers on offense. The Bulldogs’ best offensive performance was a 45-point onslaught in a blowout victory over Westville last week. Prior to that, the Bulldogs were barely averaging more than two touchdowns per contest.

The watered-down numbers still are enough to get Richardson’s attention, though.

“Jay will throw a lot at us with their offense,” Richardson said. “We need to be sound in recognizing formations and play with confidence, trust in what they see and react to it.”

Sequoyah’s nondistrict win over Sperry last week put the Indians over .500 for the first time since beating Okemah in Week 1. Against the winless Pirates, the Indians had only 305 yards of total offense and turned the ball over four times.

But at the end of the day, Richardson said, it was a notch on the left side in the win-loss column.

“I don’t believe in ugly wins,” he said. “All wins are great. I’m proud of our team for finding a way to win as the game got tough. We always see things we could do better, like cutting down on penalties and executing at a higher rate. But a win is a win and they are not easy to get.”

Sequoyah at Jay

When: 7:30 p.m.

Where: Jay B. Earp Stadium.

Radio: KTLQ, AM-1350.

Nicknames: Sequoyah Indians; Jay Bulldogs.

Coaches: Sequoyah - Shane Richardson (first season, 4-3); Jay - Darrin Wegner (third season, 15-14).

Records: Sequoyah 4-3 (2-1 District 3A-7); Jay 3-4 (1-3).

Rankings: Neither team is ranked in Class 3A.

Series record: Sequoyah leads 3-2.

Last meeting: In 2012, Sequoyah beat 46-24. The game was later forfeited by Sequoyah following the season.

Last week: Sequoyah 28, Sperry 7; Jay 45, Westville 6.

News to know: Sequoyah can earn a home playoff game by beating Jay and winning in the final two weeks against Hilldale and Lincoln Christian. ... The Indians’ defense has allowed seven points or fewer in each of their last three games. ... Jay started the year 2-1 and snapped a three-game losing streak last week against Westville. ... Jay will be without running back Joe Sirmans, who recently suffered a hand injury.

Players to watch

- Sequoyah: Justin Hooper (RB).

-- The Indians’ primary ball carrier is just short of 1,000 yards for the season, sitting at 914 on 168 carries. He’s also scored seven touchdowns this year.

Looking ahead: Sequoyah will return home for its final regular-season home game against Hilldale on Nov. 1. Jay will be at Keys on the same night.