By the time Howard’s Deoriean Elder capped off the second quarter with a 39-yard rushing touchdown on Friday, it was an all-too-familiar sight for Sequoyah.
The Chiefs had already fallen behind by a large margin in the first period, and that deficit extended mightily by halftime. When the clock finally expired on the night, Sequoyah dropped to 0-8 on the season with the 66-0 Region 2 4-A loss.
Part of the Chiefs’ misfortune could be attributed to injuries; senior Evan Swanson and sophomore Luke Lay, both standouts at running back and linebacker for Sequoyah, didn’t play, and junior tight end Justice Benson is out for the season.
“Luke hurt his back last week and so we were holding him out just to make sure he’s good,” Sequoyah head coach Ryan Bolinger said. “Want to make sure it’s nothing more than (a) bone contusion. Evan, he’s had a shoulder injury since week three. It comes in and out. Last week was pretty bad so we wanted to keep him out for this week.
“And Justice is done for the season as well.”
Swanson and Lay’s absence was most obvious in Sequoyah’s run defense, as all nine of Howard’s touchdowns came on the ground.
“That running back field and linebacker, definitely hurts us a lot as far as depth,” Bolinger said. “Hopefully (Swanson and Lay will) be back this week.”
All of the Hustlin’ Tigers’ scores also came during the first half, as Howard scored five times in the first quarter and four times in the second to lead 66-0 at halftime. By the third quarter, Howard had emptied its bench.
After finding no success offensively in the first half, Sequoyah performed better in the second, switching to an I-formation-based offense and running consistent fullback dives. The change helped the Chiefs move the ball down the field more efficiently, although it didn’t lead to points.
“Just to get something going,” Bolinger said. “We changed some people up personnel-wise just to get some guys some touches and get a little excitement going.”
Sequoyah senior quarterback River Jenkins, who was inserted as the starter early in the season when sophomore Gabe Litrreal was injured, finished 7-of-23 passing for four interceptions and just eight yards, as multiple receivers were dropped behind the line of scrimmage on screen passes.
Freshman Ethan Blair led the Chiefs with 56 rushing yards on six carries, operating in Sequoyah’s new power-running scheme during the second half.
The Chiefs are still searching for their first win of the season. They will travel to East Ridge for another region game on Oct. 18.
The Pioneers are 4-3 on the season, with a 1-2 record in Region 2 4-A play. East Ridge defeated Chattanooga Central 48-34 on Friday.
“Just end the season high,” Bolinger said. “Try to do something good. We’ve got two more games left. Last year they said they started off strong and they had a lot of losses at the end, had a slow finish. So the goal is for us to finish strong.
“We’ve had a rough start and the season’s not been going the way we wanted it to, but we keep telling them, ‘We’ve got to finish strong, finish strong. Next year, we’ve got turn that corner. Got to turn the corner.”