Playoff positioning, a term that hasn’t been considered in the Lindale High School football field house in the past few years, is now officially a thing.
With Friday’s 45-35 win over the Mount Pleasant Tigers on the road, the Lindale Eagles are 4-1 in District 9-5A with two games remaining and have secured a playoff berth for the first time since 2015.
And while Eagles’ fans are looking ahead to three weeks from now, it’s safe to say the coaching staff is laser-focused on the final two games of the year.
“We aren’t going to change who we are just because we’ve had some success,’’ said Eagles’ head coach Chris Cochran. “It’s important to stay with what we’ve been doing and have fun. You can’t forget to enjoy the ride.’’
Thanks to a new rule for Class 5A this year, the top two teams in the district host the first playoff game, meaning of course, if the Eagles can close out the year with wins over Pine Tree (this Friday, Nov. 2) and Jacksonville (Nov. 9) Lindale would be the second seed behind Marshall, who seemed destined to finish in the top spot.
The Mavericks disposed of Nacogdoches, 40-0, last Friday to run their league record to 5-0, with games against Whitehouse this Friday and Pine Tree on the final night of the regular season.
A second place finish would mean the Eagles’ would have three straight home games, which could make Eagle Stadium an unwelcome place for visiting teams.
“This is one of the biggest games in a long time at Eagle Stadium,’’ Cochran said. “A big, loud crowd can have an impact on the game and turn our stadium into a tough place to play.’’
Cochran and his coaching staff have plenty to fret over this week with the high-octane Pirates’ offense coming to town. Pine Tree is averaging more than 40 points per district game and 38 per regular season game.
“They are unbelievable on offense and so talented,’’ said Cochran. “It’s both running and throwing. We’ll have our hands full.’’
The Pirates were upended last week in Whitehouse, 45-43, in the final moments to run their district record to 2-3. After this week in Lindale, Pine Tree finishes up with a road game in Marshall.
Meanwhile, the Eagles were in a racehorse game in Mount Pleasant.
Both teams combined for 49 points in the first half with Lindale owning a 28-21 lead.
Eagle quarterback Dillon Heinaman was 24-of-35 for 364 yards and four touchdowns while sophomore running back Jordan Jenkins topped the 100 yard rushing mark again.
Brenna Moore hauled in a 47-yard pass from Heinaman to open Lindale’s scoring, while sophomore Jaymond Jackson had a 25 scoring reception and Colton Brown scored on passes from eight and 37 yards.
Two more wins and the Eagles will host a bi-district playoff against the third place finisher in District 10-5A, a district featuring schools from College Station, Bryan, Montgomery, Huntsville, Katy and Rosenberg.
This season has been quite a turnaround from Cochran’s first year the LHS helm, when the Eagles finished out the playoffs with a 4-6 overall mark.
“I can’t tell you how proud I am of these kids and the coaches,’’ he said. “Our coaching staff is doing a great job of planning and coaching and the kids are taking these things and executing. It’s been exciting.’’