There was enough intrigue and excitement to fill out any Hollywood movie, but unfortunately for the Lindale Eagles the final page of the script proved to be a heartbreaker after last Friday’s 27-23 District 17-5A loss in Whitehouse.
Lindale had taken a 23-20 lead with1:30 to play in the game but couldn’t corral the ensuing onside kick, giving Whitehouse the ball at its 46.
Three plays later, reserve quarterback Flint Herrington – who came in for injured starter Jake Clemons – directed the Wildcats to the winning score, a 19-yard pass to Kendrion Johnson.
Lindale Head Coach Chris Cochran and his staff knew going into the game that unless Nacogdoches could defeat Jacksonville, the only hope for the Eagles to get into the playoffs was to beat Whitehouse by 14 points and resolve a possible three-way tie.
“I’m sure there were lots of people wondering what in the world we were doing,’’ Cochran said, referring to the onside kick following the go-ahead touchdown. “But we were in a position that we had to score every point we could.’’
At halftime, he learned Jacksonville was leading by a touchdown over Nacogdoches, so he made sure his offensive strategy and play calling were geared to scoring lots of points.
“We really had to make decisions and plans out of the ordinary,’’ Cochran said, referring to fake punts, two-point conversions and even a exciting, fourth down, hook-and-ladder play featuring running back Jordan Robinson pitching to a trailing Theron Brown to give the Eagles their 23-20 lead.
Despite coming up short on the scoreboard, Cochran was effusive in his praise of his players and the progress of his team, which finished the season at 4-6.
“If there are any doubts out there about Lindale kids, this game is the perfect example of what the future holds for our football program,’’ he said. “This is the type of team you want to see. They believed in themselves every Friday night and didn’t quit.
“I’m extremely proud of these young men,’’ he said.
Turnovers against the Wildcats, especially a fumble recovery and interception which were both returned for touchdowns, proved to be critical. The Eagles gave the ball away five times in the game.
On Lindale’s second play from scrimmage, Whitehouse’s Jermone Bowser recovered a fumble at the Lindale 32 and ran in for the score, giving the Wildcats a 7-0 lead.
With 9:40 left in the third period, Michael Raabe swiped a Dillon Heinaman pass and gave the Wildcats a 14-0 lead.
Lindale managed to trim the lead to 14-8 after Robinson ran in from four yards out and then tacked on the two-point conversion.
After the Wildcats increased their lead to 20-8 on a 63-yard run from Clayton Cook, the Eagles tallied again as Heinaman found Robinson from 19 yards out.
Brown hauled in the two-point conversion to cut the lead to 20-16 and set the stage for a wild final five minutes.
“It was a classic, a game we won’t ever forget,’’ Cochran said.
The coach acknowledged it was a stinging defeat, to be sure, but the bigger picture provided a measure of clarity.
“This is a great life lesson for all of them,’’ he said. “It showed them that if they are willing to pour their heart and soul into something, good things will eventually come.’’