By Kenton Brooks
Phoenix Sports Writer
Going into last Friday night, Hilldale was full of confidence and optimism as they prepared to play Sequoyah for the District 3A-7 championship.
After Friday, the Hornets had an empty feeling.
Hilldale lost 28-0 to the Indians. Coach Chad Kirkhart expressed his team’s disappointment in the loss.
“We would’ve liked to be a district champion, but that didn’t work out,” he said. “But we can’t let that affect the way we finish out the year.
“We’ve got to finish out the regular season well and get ready for the playoffs. Our kids will be fine. We’ll regroup this week.”
The Hornets close out the regular season Thursday at Westville.
The loss was especially tough as Kirkhart’s team was coming off four straight games of scoring 40 points or more.
As last week progressed, Hilldale liked their chances despite Sequoyah’s problems off the field.
The Indians had 12 players ruled ineligible during the week by the Oklahoma Secondary Schools Activities Association after it learned of a violation of the summer camp participation rule. Head coach Brent Scott was suspended by the school.
Lawyers representing the players petitioned for a temporary restraining order against the OSSAA. A Cherokee County district court judge installed the order and kept it in place, granting the players the right to play.
With the suspended players allowed to take the field, the Indians sacked quarterback Chandler Puckett five times, limited the Hornets to 57 yards rushing and handed Hilldale its first shutout in Kirkhart’s three years as head coach. It’s also the first shutout loss since a 43-0 setback to Tuttle in the third week of the 2008 season.
“We just didn’t execute,” Puckett said in a hushed Hilldale locker room.
The loss was also disheartening as senior wide receiver-defensive back Richard Mabery injured his left knee.
“Nothing’s broken,” Kirkhart said. “He’s in a splint. Hopefully, we’ll find out as soon as possible how he’s going to be.”
Kirkhart told his guys that they can’t dwell on the past.
“We can’t go back and change what happened. We have to fix our mistakes and move on. That’s all we can do.”
A win against Westville and the Hornets will have the first round playoff game at home.
“We’ve still got to be ready to play better at what we do,” he said. “We’ll worry about the playoffs when they get here.”