By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
True to his one game at a time approach, Hilldale head coach Chad Kirkhart wasn’t fully aware of the playoff possibilities.
Well, at least one.
Turns out the Hornets (6-2, 3-1 in District 3A-7) can lose out and still make the playoffs because of their hold on the tiebreaker points is insurmountable. He did admit, though, that a possible district title can be won by winning out and seeing Lincoln Christian (6-3, 3-1) beat Locust Grove (8-0, 4-0) this week to create a three-way tie atop the league. Hilldale currently leads in tiebreaker points.
Maybe it’s just in his sense of expectations — barely getting in versus winning it all.
“I really hadn’t looked at all of it too close,” he said Tuesday. “My concern is Sequoyah.”
The Indians’ situation is very unsettled, thanks to a 48-14 loss to Jay (4-4, 2-3) last week. Sequoyah (4-4, 2-2) could clinch a postseason berth with a win Friday and a Keys victory over Jay. If Jay wins, it wraps up district at 3-3 with a non-league game next week, and Sequoyah would be out with a loss if Lincoln Christian defeats Locust Grove. If Lincoln loses, a three-loss Sequoyah would have to beat Lincoln in its finale and hope to get in on a three-way tiebreaker for third.
It’s been a battle all season for Sequoyah and first-year head coach Shane Richardson, having missed out on spring drills, team camps and pre-season scrimmages.
“I don’t think we’ll ever catch up when everyone else has been going since May and we’ve been going since Aug. 12,” he said. “You just can’t make up that much work. The only thing we’ve been able to be even on is having a week between games to get ready for the next one.”
The biggest issue for the Indians has been consistency. Locust Grove had Sequoyah down 32-6 near halftime but watched the Indians storm back with three second-half touchdowns, two in the final 5:15 and lose 38-34.
Over the next three weeks they were dominant, outscoring Keys, Westville and Sperry by 103-13. Then came the disaster at Jay. It was 15-8 in the second quarter after Nick Kingfisher returned a kickoff 85 yards for a score when Jay’s Kong Vang went 70 yards to the 5 where the Bulldogs scored two plays later.
It was close at the half (25-14) and things happened, they didn’t respond well and got too far down,” Kirkhart said. “They’re a talented bunch. They’re big and physical and athletic. We can’t underestimate them.”
“We had a stretch of about four games where we’ve been good and last week I don’t feel we were that much worse than Jay. It’s just we let situations get away from us,” Richardson said.
“At times we put up good numbers on offense but we need to be more consistent to beat teams like Hilldale. They’re the most athletic team on defense we’ve seen, especially up front. And their quarterback (Chandler Puckett) is as good of a dual threat as anyone I’ve seen on film.
“Main thing we’ve got to do is realize if we get down early, it doesn’t mean that you’re dead. You have to come back one play at a time, one series at a time and just keep plugging away.”
Running back Justin Hooper had 972 yards on the season, an average of 118 yards rushing per game. Zach Parish, the quarterback, has 1,343 yards passing but is completing passes at a 45.5 percent rate. His top target is Caisen Green (38-705).
Cody Hooper and Nick Kingfisher have seven interceptions between them. The Sequoyah defense has 12.
“They’re pretty solid in the secondary but I think we match up pretty well there,” Kirkhart said.
Puckett has 1,659 yards passing and 18 TDs. Bradley Campbell is second in the state in receiving and could pass 1,000 yards this week (46 catches, 889 yards, 10 TDs).