Spring football means a little more this year for Shane Richardson.
Sequoyah’s head coach didn’t get to experience it last year.
He was recovering from health issues that put him in a place he didn’t want to be and it put a cloud over the program.
On Thursday, the Indians completed their two weeks of drills at Sequoyah High School with Richardson back in his familiar spot and his desired role.
“I want to be here,” Richardson said Thursday as he sit next to his brother and offensive coordinator Brandon Richardson. “I want to be around our guys. It helps me when I’m able to be here and it helps my overall spirits, giving me something to do.
“I think it’s made me a better coach, being more aware of what our kids got going off the field.
“I’ve had a great spring. This is my first spring in two years that I’ve been out here every day. It’s been a real plus being able to be out here and being able to coach again. It’s also a benefit for our players to always know that their head coach is going to be here. They don’t have to worry about where he’s at today. It just keeps the continuity.”
Sequoyah struggled last season with an inexperienced roster and went 3-7 in Richardson’s sixth year as head coach.
It was a drastic change from the 2017 campaign. That team won 10 games for the first time since 2009 and was only the third team since 1953 to reach the third round of the playoffs.
Eighteen seniors, many of which were starters and key contributors, graduated from the 2017 team.
Last year was a difficult one for all within the program.
But with Richardson in better health and with a talented nucleus in place, Richardson is hopeful of a quick turnaround.
“We graduated four guys off last year’s team. We’ve got everybody else back,” he said. “The outlook is good from that perspective as far as experience. We’re just looking to enhance that and maybe use that as a positive. We’re not looking for so many guys to fill holes like we had to do last year.”
Key parts returning include quarterback Skylar Birdtail, running back Shade Watie, receiver Trenton Harris, and linebackers Tyler Purkey and Dakota Sanchez.
Watie was explosive as both a receiver and running back. He led Sequoyah with 1,220 rushing yards and had 13 touchdowns. On the receiving end, he had 21 receptions for 320 yards and another five scores.
“Shade’s coming in with a couple of years starting under his belt and has looked good,” Richardson said. “He sees the holes really well. We have high expectations for him and he has high expectations for himself.”
Harris led in catches (25) and receiving yards (390) and found the end zone seven times. Standing at 6-foot-3 and 193 pounds, he gives Birdtail a large target to throw to and is a mismatch for opposing defenses.
“He’s getting some college recruiting and he’s a sprinter on the track team,” Richardson said. “He’s definitely a vertical threat that can stretch the field and someone that we come move around. We feel pretty good about throwing 50/50 balls to him.”
Purkey finished with a team-high 132 tackles, and Sanchez added 106.
“Tyler is our leading tackler from last year, kind of the statistical leader of our defense,” Richardson said. “Dakota is another linebacker back that played all of last year. Those guys are the leaders of our defense, along with Shade at free safety who is a vocal leader.”
Spring is just the beginning for Richardson and his team on their climb back.
“You’ve still got to start from scratch and you’ve got to start over every spring,” he said. “We’ve done that and we felt like if we could get our base offense and base defense in throughout the spring that we’d be ready for team camp, and that would be our goal.”
Richardson is back in his happy place and fortunate to play his lead role in it.