By BEN JOHNSON
Sequoyah was rolling right along in 2012. The Indians were unbeaten in district play, sporting only one loss on the year — an epic meltdown, which resulted in Victory Christian coming from behind to beat Sequoyah in Week 3.
The Indians were on the verge on their biggest game of the year, set to play at Hilldale for the District 3A-7 championship.
Then the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association intervened, and Sequoyah’s season went kerplunk. The OSSAA found the Indians to be in violation of its summer camp policy, thus abolishing anything the Indians had accomplished once the season started in 2012.
Forced to forfeit all nine of its victories on the season, Sequoyah finished the year with a winless mark, a suspended head coach — who has still not been reinstated to coach in Oklahoma — and disgruntled players.
It was a year to forget, for sure.
On top of Brent Scott — Sequoyah’s head coach last season — being dismissed, Sequoyah was also dealt penalties that extended into the offseason. The Indians were only allowed to have spring practice during limited hours; they were not allowed to participate in any type of summer camps this year; and they weren’t allowed to schedule any preseason scrimmages this season against any other schools.
That has made fall practice interesting for Sequoyah, who is slated to open the 2013 campaign at home against Okemah on Sept. 6.
“We’ve been waiting a long time to be practicing,” said Sequoyah head coach Shane Richardson, who was the interim coach for two games last season, before having the interim label removed in the offseason.
“The biggest thing is that the sanctions are what they are. The biggest thing I have to stay grounded about as a coach is preparing a team for a season is a process. We have to build the foundation first.”
While other teams utilized the spring and summer months to lay the ground work for 2013, Sequoyah was left lifting weights and waiting its turn.
“Most other teams get to build their foundations in spring ball and the summer,” Richardson said. “We didn’t get that, and we can’t just skip building the foundation. So we’re doing that now.
“Going brick by brick this season...just having to start behind everybody else.”
Compounding Sequoyah’s lag behind other teams is its roster turnover. The Indians graduated 17 seniors from last season’s team, 15 of which were starters.
But there’s one word that Richardson wants no part of.
“I don’t like to use the word ‘rebuilding,’” he said. “I don’t think we’re rebuilding. Every year has its own challenges.”
The Indians were left to fill slots at nearly every position no the field. The two-way playmakers — Niko Hammer, Tanner Sheets, Greydon Elrod, Ryan Helsley and Kyle Helsley — have all given way to names such as Nolan Philpott, Cody Hooper and Nick Kingfisher.
“I think a lot of our kids, they’re playing with a little bit of a chip on their shoulders because of the notion that we’re going to be a little down because of graduation,” Richardson said. “Graduation is a part of life. Players move on every year, and the players this year are carrying on the Sequoyah tradition.”
As for what lies ahead for Sequoyah in 2013, not even Richardson is sure at this point.
“We have so many unknowns right now that we won’t be able to answer any questions (about winning games) until we play somebody,” Richardson said. “Our goal is to get into the playoffs, but that’s probably everybody’s goal.”
One thing is for sure, Richardson said: “Everyone in this program is accustomed to winning, and they don’t want to be the team that lets everyone down.”