After Jacksonville loss, Lindale faces must-win game Friday

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After a 25-15 setback to District 17-5A rival Jacksonville last Friday, the schedule for Lindale’s Eagles has changed a bit as far as head coach Chris Cochran is concerned.

“We are telling our players that this is our playoff week – a week early,’’ he said, referring to Friday’s trip to Whitehouse. “Our players need to let it loose, have fun and let the chips fall where they may.’’

This schedule “shifting’’ came about because Jacksonville dashed Lindale’s hopes of wrapping up a playoff seed with its 10-point win at Eagle Stadium.

A Lindale victory would have meant the Eagles would have been playing the Wildcats on Friday for playoff seeding, not for a chance to get into the playoffs.

The scenario is now pretty simple: Lindale has to beat Whitehouse and hope Nacogdoches wins in Jacksonville.

If that comes to pass, Lindale and Whitehouse would be in the playoffs by virtue of having two district victories to just one for both Nacogdoches and Jacksonville.

The first step in this journey, obviously, is to beat a 5-4 Whitehouse club that has district wins over Jacksonville (24-7) and Nacogdoches (14-11).

“It’s going to take a very good effort to beat Whitehouse,’’ Cochran said. “We are going to have to take care of the ball because they are one of the best defensive teams we will face this year.’’

Specifically, Cochran said the Whitehouse secondary is a tough one to penetrate, led by defensive backs Javier Neal, a three-year starter and Kendahl Fry, another returning starter.

Offensively, the Wildcats have weapons in second-year starting quarterback Jake Clemons (who was intercepted five times last week against Corsicana in a 27-10 loss) and receiver Cameron Cantrell.

Last Friday’s loss was similar to Lindale’s 2016 victory over Jacksonville at the Tomato Bowl. The Eagles came into that game without much to play for other than pride and wrecked the Indians’ playoff chances with a 45-7 thrashing.

Cochran and his coaching staff stressed that upset win from a year ago and how Jacksonville would be looking to issue some payback to the Eagles this year.

“During the week (the coaches) did everything we could to make sure our kids didn’t overlook them,’’ Cochran said. “Now this can be used as a learning experience.’’

The game began on an inauspicious note as Josh McDowell took the opening kickoff 62 yards for a touchdown.

“That really changed the momentum,’’ Cochran said of that rapid-fire score. “But after that, I thought we played well and the defense responded well.’’

A similar misfortune hit the Eagles when they fumbled the opening kickoff against Ennis. In that game, however, Lindale couldn’t stop the downhill slide.

“This game was different,’’ Cochran said. “We are making progress and I really like the way we came back and competed. They are doing the right things.’’

Now that the final week of the regular season has arrived, Cochran said he and his fellow coaches are happy to be in a position to possibly continue playing.

“To be in (the playoff hunt) in week 10 is all you can ask for,’’ he said. “All we need is a chance.’’

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