Despite a numbing (56-28) setback to the Pine Tree Pirates this past week at Eagle Stadium, the goal of the Lindale Eagles remains the same as the final regular season game arrives Friday with the Jacksonville Indians coming to town.
A victory over the Indians will assure Lindale of second place in District 9-5A and allow the Eagles will host the bi-district playoff game on Nov. 16. The Eagles are 4-2 in district.
Whitehouse, which lost to Marshall on Friday (37-13), is also 4-2 in district play but Lindale owns the tiebreaker thanks to a 19-14 victory on Oct. 19.
The Wildcats will take on Hallsville this Friday.
Other district matches include Nacogdoches hosting Mount Pleasant and Pine Tree taking on Marshall.
Jacksonville, meanwhile, is 1-4 in district play and has little to play for.
But this doesn’t mean Lindale Head Coach Chris Cochran is expecting an easy time of it Friday. In fact, he’s sure the Indians will give his club all it can handle.
“Jacksonville is a tough matchup for us,’’ he said. “They are so skilled and athletic and they’ve been in every game.’’
The Indians have also had to deal with lots of travel, even for their home games. The historic Tomato Bowl has been undergoing a facelift this season which means Jacksonville has had its “home’’ games at Trinity Mother Frances Rose Stadium in Tyler.
Cochran also knows the Jacksonville coaching staff will have the players prepared.
“I know for sure they are well coached,’’ he said. “We have so much respect for their coaches and staff. They’ve done a really good job with them.’’
The Lindale staff has spent this week trying to scrub the memory of last week’s debacle from the minds of the Eagle players.
“Sometimes, you have to get knocked down to wake up,’’ he said. “We’ve made sure our focus is there and we got back to work.’’
It seemed the Eagles were going to make the Pirates their fifth district victim, especially after driving for the opening touchdown of the game, a 36-yard scoring pass from quarterback Dillon Heinaman to wide receiver Colton Brown.
Pine Tree drove to the tying score on its first possession and on its second and third to jump out to a 21-7 lead.
But the game seemed to change on the second quarter pick six by Gabe Adams.
Cochran admitted that score, which flipped to the scoreboard to a 28-7 Pirate advantage, may have taken some of the starch from his club. This year on offense, the Eagles have been able to control the clock via the ground game, but after falling so far behind so quickly, they were forced out of their usual routine.
“Our kids didn’t quit,’’ he said. “They kept playing hard but we had more missed tackles (30) than any other game this year.’’
In order to secure the coveted second place playoff spot, the Eagles can’t let Jacksonville’s team speed take over the game, Cochran said.
Especially threatening is TCU-bound Deshawn McCuin, a 6-1, 185-pound speedster who is a starter at defensive back but also takes snaps from the Wildcat spot on offense.
Another standout on defense is Braelyn Riden, who swiped six passes in 2017 and also lines up as a receiver on offense.
“Their team speed is as good as we’ve seen all year,’’ Cochran said. “It’s going to be a challenge.’’