By BEN JOHNSON
A bell rings out, signaling the end of another school day.
At most schools, the echoing sound of the bell can be heard on football fields off in the distance. Players continue on with spring practice, not giving a second thought about the faint noise that falls in line with a coach’s whistle.
At Sequoyah, the final bell of the day rings out at 3:15. Students flood the hallways in an attempt to make a quick getaway from dry-erase boards or textbooks.
In the past, the Sequoyah football team would continue to drudge on as their classmates went off to enjoy a pleasant spring afternoon. This year, the final bell of the school day comes with a reminder...
Be off the football field, or else.
It’s a harsh reminder for the Indians, who are prohibited from participating in a traditional spring practice. The consequence was levied upon Sequoyah after the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association found the Indians to be in violation of summer-camp policies.
Despite rolling to a district title in the fall, the Indians were forced to forfeit all nine of their victories during the 2012 season. Sequoyah was also told it could not hold typical spring drills.
The penalties were imposed on Sequoyah during the recent winter months, and the OSSAA closed its case against the Indians in early February. That gave head coach Shane Richardson some time to plan.
“We’ve known for a while what we’re faced with,” said Richardson, who was named as the interim head coach after former coach Brent Scott was suspended prior to the Indians’ Week 9 game at Hilldale. Richardson soon had the interim tag removed during the offseason.
“We had a lot of time to figure out a plan. We knew about these sanctions a long time ago.”
With that, Richardson drew up his spring plans. Those resulted in his players dressing out in shorts and a T-shirt and hitting the practice field for roughly an hour each day.
“We went through a little bit of fundamentals, and a little bit of install for some new offensive tweaks that we have,” said Richardson, whose club will also be forbidden to play in preseason scrimmages prior to the beginning of the 2013 season.
“All in all, I think we got a lot done, considering what we were faced with.”
The most pressing item each day for the Indians was making sure they were off the field by the time school let out. At practice on Thursday, Sequoyah assistant coach Phil Angieri could be heard yelling out, “Fifteen minutes left coach.”
Sequoyah was off the field and in the locker room 10 minutes later.
“Everything is on a tight schedule,” Richardson said. “We get them in here and we hustle them out. And we want to be completely off the field when the last bell rings.”
Before kick-starting spring practice this season, Richardson inquired about his team’s plans and cleared them with the OSSAA.
“We talked with the OSSAA a couple of times and let them know what our spring schedule was going to be,” Richardson said. “Made sure that was OK. Had good conversations with them, and once we got that down, we started going out.”
Sequoyah’s customized spring drills came to a conclusion on Thursday. The Indians were able to get in eight days of field time, which Richardson said was all about giving maximum effort.
“Our main focus as coaches this spring was to get everyone out there competing,” he said. “We told them all that they’re starting with a clean slate. Most of coaches have been here for a while, but we’re approaching things as if we’re a new staff. We got everyone out competing, and we just observed. We coached them up, but no one was playing for a position.”
Sequoyah’s summer docket will be much lighter this year than in recent memory. The Indians will not be allowed to take part in team camps of 7-on-7 drills. That means June, July and August will be all about conditioning for Sequoyah.
“We have a little summer thing [planned], where we’ll come in here and work out for a hour and a half,” said Cody Hooper, a soon-to-be senior wide receiver and defensive back for the Indians.
“We just have to try and get bigger and faster.”
Position breakdown: Quarterbacks
Nathan Stanley and Brayden Scott didn’t just set the bar exponentially high for quarterbacks at Sequoyah. They put the bar in a whole different stratosphere.
Now it’s up to Derrick Bruner or Zach Parish to fill the void left by Scott, who is now at Memphis after compiling 7,069 yards and 90 touchdowns through the air during his four years at Sequoyah. Scott also concluded his career with 20 rushing touchdowns and 7,698 total yards of offense.
“We’ve had three quarterbacks in nine years at Sequoyah,” Sequoyah coach Shane Richardson said. “...The quarterback position has always been taken care of here. Well, now we have an open competition.”
Bruner took some snaps during the 2012 season, but both he and Parish are newbies at the signal caller spot.
“We feel good about the two guys we have competing for that spot,” Richardson said. “Derrick Bruner has been in the program, and Zach Parish is coming to us from basketball. He looks good.”
At Sequoyah’s practice on Thursday, Bruner and Parish both commanded the offense, rotating in and out and sharing the snaps.
“It’s a healthy competition,” Richardson said, “having those two guys go for that one spot.”
With limited time during spring practice and no preseason games in the fall, Richardson said determining a solid No. 1 at quarterback my not be decided on until early on in the regular season.
“I would like for the quarterback competition to play itself out and for us to eventually have a starting quarterback,” Richardson said. “I don’t have a clue who that will be yet, but we’ve got two guys. Without scrimmages, they both might get playing time early on, because we won’t have scrimmages to evaluate them. That may carry on into the regular season, but at some point, we would like to have a starting quarterback.”