Seminole Chieftains football is one of the elite programs in this area, and in the state of Oklahoma for that matter.
Seminole is home to four state championships, six state runner-ups, 21 district titles and coach Mike Snyder is well on his way to breaking the record for most wins by a football coach in Oklahoma.
With that rich history comes many traditions.
“Growing up watching Seminole games, I knew I never wanted to leave here,” senior lineman Kaden Allison said. “I knew I wanted to graduate from Seminole and nowhere else. Now there's kids who look up to us, and that is one of the greatest feelings.”
One tradition the Seminole football program takes part in dates back to the mid-1990s. For several years, the lineman at Seminole were nicknamed the 'mules.' In the 1990s they changed their monicker to honor the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers.
According to writings by W.S. Campbell, the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers, or Dog Men were noted as highly aggressive and effective combatants. They had this name because of a Cheyenne legend about dogs who turned into fierce warriors. One tradition states that in battle they would pin themselves to a chosen piece of ground, through an unusually long breeched-clout or rear apron, by the use of one of three sacred arrows they would carry into battle. The Dog Men would do this to show they would not run away, but defend their people to the death.
Before each season, Seminole's coaching staff hands out the story of the Cheyenne Dog Soldiers.
While preparing for each game, the Chieftains linemen go to an end zone and take a chunk of grass and stuff it in their sock. The ritual is done to honor the Cheyenne, while mentally preparing themselves for the task at hand, Coach Wade Rigney said.
“We pride ourselves in taking that mind set,” Coach Wade Rigney said. “When they put grass in their sock, it's symbolic of staking themselves to what's meaningful to us.”
Being a part of this tradition, while honoring Native American culture is important to Seminole football players.
“We take that same mentality even if we're on the road. Wherever we are playing we are making that place ours,” senior lineman Callen Rigney said.
Several of the current players grew up around the program and were on the sidelines every Friday night. Carrying on this specific tradition is important to all the athletes.
“We all grew up on the sidelines and knew all the players and coaches,” Callen Rigney said. “When it was finally our time it's been great to be part of that legacy.”
Not only do these traditions honor Native American culture, they also help the team bond as they prepare for their battle on the gridiron, Allison said.
“You have to trust the man next to you,” Allison said. “If you have good chemistry and trust the man next to you, the entire line knows where they're going and get the job done the right way.”
Even Seminole's quarterback Cade Hammond took part in the tradition.
“I grew up around the program and Callen and I would run out on the field with the team. I remember seeing the lineman stuffing their socks, and I figured I had to do it. The more I learned about it, I thought it was very meaningful.We want to be able to honor the culture and be respectful while upholding a great tradition in the Chieftain program.”
As Callen Rigney and Allison prepare to graduate, the next group of leaders plan to continue the legacy.
“I grew up with these guys and we've all been really close,” junior lineman Luke Weick said. “Every year people come back and watch us play and we're always trying to get better. It's great to honor the traditions here at Seminole and I look forward to continuing that in my time as a Chieftain.”
Seminole (5-2, 3-2) is coming off a must-win game Thursday evening. In a contest that was delayed over an hour due to electrical issues, Seminole went to Checotah and pulled out 42-34 victory, all but locking up a playoff berth.
The Chieftains will return to action Oct. 26 when they head to Tulsa Webster for another district matchup.