Lindale boasted the best Class 5A defense in the region last season. For that matter, the team had a better defense than sole Class 6A participant Tyler Lee.

Unfortunately, six critical pieces of a defensive unit that averaged 20.8 points against per game were lost to graduation and losses on the offensive side of the ball were even worse.

How can this team possibly be projected to have a better season than it enjoyed in 2015? We think its most established pieces can hold the team together while 14 new starters come along.

The Eagles will begin the 2016 season ranked ninth in ETSN.fm's Class 6A/5A poll. They're just ahead of fellow District 17-5A member Whitehouse in the 10th spot.

Expect to see a more balanced Lindale team off its 5-5 regular season record last year and a trip to the first round of the 5A Division II playoffs.

Quarterback Montana Meador is back for his second full year under center, and his experience dates back to the midway point of his sophomore season.

Meador is the key of what could be a better offense and should shoulder some of the load in the running game with old running back Ryan Taylor off on an adventure with Southeastern Oklahoma State.

Passing wise, Meador should be better with another offseason under his belt.

Cameron Sir Louis is another bright spot at tight end. He'll begin the season with college football interest from at least the NCAA Division II level.

Together, Meador and Sir Louis give opposing defenses a lot of issues at the intermediate range before factoring in a new running back. That makes Lindale one deeper threat away from a complete offense and two playmakers away from potentially a better unit than what it was in 2015.

Receivers Joe Noble, a junior, and Colton Brown, a sophomore, are expected to give the offense its best chance at a deeper level.

Defensive tackle Terrell Cooper and linebacker Kale Ridge were two of the three most valuable players on the Eagles' defense. Both players are returning and both became NCAA Division I football targets during the past offseason.

District 17-5A is a nice match for a program trying to figure out what its next step will be. It's the same league Lindale played in last season with the absence of John Tyler and Lufkin -- teams that occupied two of the four district playoff spots a season ago.

The Eagles should be able to get into the postseason for a second consecutive year with a magic number of three district wins against a group rounded out by Corsicana, Ennis, Jacksonville, Nacogdoches and Whitehouse.

2016 Lindale Eagles Football Schedule

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ETSN.fm Preseason Class 6A/5A Poll