Phoenix staff, CNHI reports
TAHLEQUAH — The Sequoyah Indians have been dealt a crushing blow just days before their biggest football game of the season.
Head coach Brent Scott was suspended and eight players were ruled ineligible for Friday night’s game at Hilldale, putting a huge damper on the anticipated showdown between the two District 3A-7 unbeatens.
The infractions, levied by the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association, come a month after a Sequoyah softball player was ruled ineligible by the OSSAA.
“We are fully cooperating with the association to resolve any eligibility questions that may remain and look forward to resolving this matter as quickly as possible for our students,” said Marcus Crittenden, athletic director at Sequoyah Schools. “We want to make it clear that none of the students were at fault in these alleged infractions.”
An appeal of the OSSAA’s decision will be heard Nov. 7 at the OSSAA’s monthly board of directors meeting in Oklahoma City. That means the ruling will also cover Sequoyah’s final regular season game against Lincoln Christian.
The announcement was first made in a release from Cherokee Nation Tuesday afternoon. The coach who was suspended was not identified in the release, but Sequoyah Schools superintendent Leroy Qualls said by phone to the Phoenix that Scott was the coach suspended.
Also omitted from the release were names of players.
“Since they are minors, we are not releasing names,” said Julie Hubbard, Cherokee Nation’s communications supervisor.
However, a source told the Tahlequah Daily Press late Tuesday afternoon that among the eight players suspended are quarterback Brayden Scott, wide receiver/outside linebacker Niko Hammer, defensive tackle Greyden Elrod, reserve tailback/linebacker Karter Woodruff and aoffensive tackle/reserve defensive end Mvhayv Locust.
Scott, a 6-foot-3, 210-pound quarterback who is committed to the University of Memphis, has completed 59.6 percent (90 of 151) of his passes for 1,379 yards and 26 touchdowns this season. He also holds the school record for touchdown passes.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Scott said on his Twitter account Tuesday afternoon. In a separate tweet, he followed that up with, “Don’t worry about things you can’t control.”
Hammer, the Indians’ leading receiver this season, has caught 30 passes for 410 yards and eight touchdowns. Woodruff, the Indians’ second-leading rusher in 2012, has compiled 459 yards and seven touchdowns on 40 carries.
On defense, Woodruff is Sequoyah’s leading tackler, with 29 tackles, 4-1/2 tackles for loss, 2-1/2 sacks and a fumble recovery. Elrod has chipped in with a team-leading six sacks and 13-1/2 tackles for loss.
All of the players ruled ineligible have played in at least six games this season. The Indians, like Hilldale, are currently 7-1 overall and 4-0 in 3A-7.
It didn't take long for the Indians' opponent this week to catch wind of the penalties, although by the time Hilldale coach Chad Kirkhart had learned about it, practice for the day was over.
“With the way things are with social media it doesn’t take long for it to get out and by then word had spread,” Kirkhart said.
“It’s really a different kind of situation than we’ve ever had...You’re still playing for district, and so are they, so you’ve got to focus on what you’ve got to do. That doesn’t change.”
Qualls said officials don’t yet know whether any of this season’s games would be forfeited.
“There’s a possibility, but I hate to say that before facts come out,” Qualls said.
Qualls, who took the superintendent’s job in July, has been down this road already. A month ago, the school’s slowpitch program was forced to vacate its 2011 state championship on the heels of a denial of a retroactive appeal for player eligibility in a case involving Kelsey Leach. The superintendent told the Phoenix that the football infractions began in 2009 and ended early this past summer.
The football suspensions sent shockwaves throughout Cherokee Nation, with Principal Chief Bill John Baker weighing in via Todd Hembree, the Cherokee Nation attorney general.
“Chief Baker has instructed my office and the Cherokee Nation to use every resource we have throughout the appeal process,” Hembree said. “The chief and I find it unconscionable that students and families are being punished for the actions of adults who should have followed the rules.”
Tahlequah Daily Press sports editor Ben Johnson and Phoenix sports editor Mike Kays contributed to this story.