In the sweaty, steamy days of summer, Lindale High School Head Football Coach Chris Cochran took a look at his team’s schedule and plotted a course which could lead his club back into the Class 5A playoffs.
He was aware of the predictions of certain publications that had his team on the outside looking in when the District 17-5A campaign was finished.
Cochran, who was defensive coordinator for the Eagles before taking over the top job this season, has quietly used this snub as a motivational tool for his team.
Wins over Terrell, Forney and Gladewater have enabled the Eagles to enter their league opener this Friday in Nacogdoches with a 3-2 record and a real chance to establish them as a genuine playoff contender.
“Our goal has always been to improve each week,’’ Cochran said. “All our kids are working hard and they know the hard work is an investment – the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.’’
As to his club’s chances of earning a playoff berth, Cochran understands there are some tall hurdles to clear, but feels his Eagles are up to the challenge.
“I firmly believe that every Friday night we will have a competitive game and we can compete with all the teams,’’ he said. “One of the positives I take from this district is it has six teams.’’
The real season kicks off Friday in Nacogdoches against the 1-4 Dragons and despite the record, Cochran knows his club will have its hands full.
“They are very, very good, very athletic and very big on both side of the ball,’’ he said. “Our effort has to be the best. We are going to have to execute better and continue to do what we’ve been doing in order to win.’’
Going into District 17-5A play, Jacksonville leads the way with a 4-1 record, followed by Lindale and Whitehouse at 3-2. Corsicana and Ennis are 2-3.
In addition to the Lindale-Nacogdoches game, Corsicana will host Jacksonville and Whitehouse will host Ennis.
In alphabetical order, here is a look at each District 17-5A team going into league play:
The Tigers have defeated Red Oak, 41-0 and Marshall, 22-19, while losing to Robert E. Lee, 42-15, Lancaster 41-23 and 38-35 to Manor High School.
Once again, Blake Hoffman will direct the Corsicana offense, while Derrion Nathan and Z’Antyler Foster-Hooks are other key players on offense.
Corsicana had a 28-19 lead against Manor in its final pre-district tune up, but the Mustangs scored 19 unanswered points to complete the comeback.
The Tigers host Jacksonville on Friday.
Each year it seems Ennis starts out slow before district but really cranks it up when the playoffs are on the line.
The Lions stumbled out of the gate this year, losing to Dallas South Oak Cliff, 29-28; John Tyler 27-23 and Waxahachie, 42-28, before recovering to destroy Dallas Kimball, 82-7 and defeating Del Valle, 17-13.
Tycen Thompson, perhaps the best player in the district, returns to lead the Lions’ offense.
Against John Tyler, Ennis held a 17-7 lead but JT reeled off 20 straight points to take a 10-point lead.
The loss to South Oak Cliff came on the final play of the game, a seven yard run as time expired.
A trip to Corsicana looms for the Indians to open league play after Jacksonville defeated Pine Tree, 21-12; Hallsville 15-14; Mount Pleasant, 34-18 and Alvarado, 24-12. The Indians’ only loss to date was to Palestine, 31-26, on the second Friday of the season.
Jacksonville has been leaning on its defense so far, with linebacker Scooter Baker and defensive back Jaeshun Bush leading the way.
The Indians travel to Corsicana to begin District 17-5A play on Friday.
If trial by fire can make a difference for a team, Nacogdoches’ pre-district schedule may have forged a rough customer for Lindale’s first district game.
The Dragons took on Kilgore, Lufkin, Robert E. Lee and Gilmer in a four-pack that would test the mettle of just about any club.
Nacogdoches downed Hallsville for its lone win of the season to date.
Gilmer, one of East Texas’ premier programs, was taken to the limit before securing a 51-49 win. The Dragons’ Jake Smith completed 21 of 31 passes and three touchdowns, while running back Marcus Sweat ran for 175 yards and three touchdowns.
In the Kilgore game, the Dragons scored on a 94-yard punt return and recovered three fumbles, with the second turning into a 23-yard touchdown from Jake Smith to James Sowards.
The Wildcats have defeated Hallsville, 27-10; Chapel Hill, 28-14 and 28-6 over Sulphur Springs while losing to Carthage 42-20 and Kennedale, 56-13.
Offensive standouts for Whitehouse include Jacob Clemons, Cameron Cantrell and Clayton Cook as well as Javier Miles.
Whitehouse advanced to the bi-district finals in 2016, and returns nine offensive and eight defensive starters from a 6-5 club. Clemons threw for 1,135 yards and 10 touchdowns last year.
Ennis comes to Whitehouse for the district opener on Friday.