Tahlequah Daily Press

November 2, 2012

Indians’ season ending?

With questions marks still surrounding the program, Sequoyah to host Lincoln Christian in regular season finale.

By BEN JOHNSON
Sports Editor

— No one knows what the future will hold. That’s certainly the case at Sequoyah, where the plot continues to thicken by the day with an ongoing investigation by the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association into eligibility issues within the football program.

Many questions continue to linger about as the regular season winds down:

• How will the appeals process play out in front of the OSSAA board of directors on Wednesday?

• Will the players be allowed to continue playing in the playoffs if head coach Brent Scott takes the brunt of the blame?

• How will all of this affect the Class 3A playoffs?

There’s a chance most of those will be answered next week. Then again, maybe not.

In the meantime, one inquiry comes to the forefront as Sequoyah gets set to host Lincoln Christian tonight at Thompson Field: could the game against the Bulldogs be Sequoyah’s last this season?

Sequoyah interim coach Shane Richardson addressed that notion by saying, “whatever happens in the future happens. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

“I approach every game the same, no matter what the implications are in the future.”

That mindset helped Sequoyah captured the District 3A-7 crown last week with a 28-0 throttling of Hilldale. The Indians forced four Hilldale turnovers and allowed the Hornets only 169 yards of total offense.

Not too shabby for a club that wasn’t sure what pieces it would have available when it woke up that morning.

“We’re just trying to stayed focused on games,” said Richardson, who had the services of 12 players that had a temporary restraining order upheld against the OSSAA in district court last Friday. “That’s one thing about this team: they’re a tight group of guys who want to play well for themselves and the team.”

Nowhere was that more apparent than on the defensive side of the ball. Hilldale came in averaging 34.6 points per game, yet the Hornets were relegated to their first game without points since 2008.

“I give the players a lot of credit for the way they went out there with a lot of determination and effort,” Richardson said. “...We still found some things we need to work on, but it’s hard to argue with the amount of effort we gave.”

Someone else who noticed Sequoyah’s superb defensive showing was Lincoln Christian coach Darren Melton.

“I think their defense is a bit overlooked because of their weapons on offense,” said Melton, whose club is 6-3 overall and 3-2 in District 3A-7 entering Week 10.

“The proof is in the pudding; they went to Hilldale and shut them out. They’re good on defense and good at getting the ball back for the offensive unit.”

This week, Sequoyah (9-1, 5-0) switches from trying to shut down Hilldale’s Jamaul Collum and Chandler Puckett to putting the clamps on Lincoln Christian’s Austin Grauer and Justin Flewellen.

“Their quarterback can throw it and the running back can run it,” Richardson said of Grauer (quarterback) and Flewellen (running back). “They’re a good, solid football team for sure.”

Grauer’s numbers speak for themselves: 1,965 yards and 22 touchdowns on 140 of 239 passing. And, only four interceptions.

“The quarterback is as good as anyone we’ve faced this year,” Richardson said of Grauer.

One thing Melton’s crew is learning right now is about life at the 3A level. The Bulldogs, after wrecking havoc in Class 2A for years (including a state title in 2009), moved up to 3A this season due to rules implemented on certain private schools.

“What I’ve noticed is there are a lot bigger guys,” Melton said in his assessment of 3A. “There are some similarities and some differences. “The level of competition has gone up a notch, and 3A is possibly the most consistent class from top to bottom.”

Heading into final week of the regular season, Sequoyah and Lincoln Christian both have clinched postseason berths. Sequoyah — if it’s allowed to participate in the playoffs — will be the No. 1 seed out of 3A-7, while Lincoln Christian will either be third or fourth, depending on outcomes tonight.

With a win and a Keys loss at Locust Grove, Lincoln Christian would be the No. 3 seed. Anything else would lead to the Bulldogs being No. 4.

“The way we see it is we’re in,” Melton said. “This week is to get ready for the next week.”

With the top spot locked up and an emotional victory now in the record books, the chance of a potential letdown looms for Sequoyah. But Richardson said don’t count on that happening.

“With such a mature football team, we have a lot of leadership,” Richardson said. “We’re not worried about any kind of letdown. And I know our seniors won’t let that happen.”