For the Lindale High School football team, a lot of familiar faces will be taking on some new challenges this year and second year Head Coach Chris Cochran feels there’s excitement in the air.
“Our kids are really fired up,’’ he said. “They are truly excited about what’s to come.’’
Topping the list of future things is a new district home – 9-5A – with familiar faces Whitehouse, Jacksonville and Nacogdoches joining Marshall, Mount Pleasant, Hallsville and Pine Tree.
Non-district foes will be Kaufman (on the road), Forney (in Lindale) and Van (on the road).
The Eagles will have four district home games and the longest trip of the year will be to Nacogdoches.
This year’s club won’t be short on experience as 25 seniors will fill out the roster. Cochran is happy with the leadership exhibited by his upper classmen.
“I believe this is the best summer for workouts since I’ve been here,’’ he said. “Our approach has always been to try and develop leadership with our kids and we really do have a bunch of good kids. They are a solid, tight-knit group.’’
On offense, seven starters return with two of those manning key skill positions – senior quarterback Dillon Heinaman and wide receiver Colton Brown.
In the backfield, Grant Sims, who garnered playing time a year ago will team with sophomore Jordan Jenkins and Connor Boyette.
The offensive line returns four starters – including James Sandifer and Cason Cheney – who should help clear the way for Heinaman and his running backs.
“(Heinaman) has worked really hard this summer,’’ Cochran said. “He’s gotten stronger and is in probably the best shape of his life.’’
Defensively, the Eagles could be a tough customer for opponents this fall.
“We are going to hang our hat on these (defensive) guys,’’ said Cochran, the former defensive coordinator for LHS. “I think we can win the battle up front.’’
In the D-line, Jonah Flores and Barrett Soriano are two returning starters and in the backfield, junior Christian Wood (co-Defensive Newcomer of the Year for 17-5A last year) and team interception leader Jaron Covey should provide solid play.
Graduation took most of the experience from the linebacker corps and Cochran admitted this wasn’t the strongest unit on his club – yet.
“There are definitely some question marks at linebacker,’’ he said. “But that means there’s an opportunity for someone to step up.’’
As far as the new district is concerned, the head coach is obviously looking for good things from his club but he can see three or four other teams in the mix for the district championship.
“Marshall is going to be good. They have so many athletes,’’ Cochran said. “Jacksonville may be getting overlooked but they are so well coached you can’t count them out.
“Pine Tree has a ton of offensive athletes so they should be a force as well,’’ he said. “But we really believe we can play with any of them.’’
A road trip to Kaufman on Aug. 31 is the season opener and the Eagles will be seeking some payback for the Lions’ 19-14 victory. Forney will be the home opener for Lindale on Sept. 7 and on Sept. 14, Lindale travels to Van to continue this historically fierce rivalry.
The open week comes on Sept. 21 and Marshall arrives on Sept. 28 for the Eagles’ district home opener, which is also Homecoming.
The next two weeks will see the Eagles on the road to Nacogdoches and Hallsville before returning home to take on Whitehouse on Oct. 19.
On Oct. 26, Lindale will go to Mount Pleasant, followed by home dates against Pine Tree and Jacksonville, which is also Senior Night.