Lindale Begins Season Full Of Daunting Obstacles With Record Program Participation + Brimming Confidence
LINDALE -- Lindale head coach Mike Meador used the word "excited" five times over the course of a five-minute conversation with ETSN.fm during Thursday morning's practice.
Not necessarily the response you'd expect from the man in charge of a program that must ultimately line up across from the likes of Ennis, Lufkin, John Tyler, Whitehouse and Nacogdoches when the much-anticipated new District 16-5A makes its debut in late September.
After all, despite getting into the playoffs, Lindale won just three games last season. Its playoff opponent: none other than Ennis, which ended the Eagles' season with a resounding 62-17 victory. And now, not only is Ennis a district competitor, Lufkin -- a school roughly twice the size of Lindale -- has been thrown into the mix.
Why is Meador excited?
"We've got bigger (program participation) numbers than we've had in the past," he said. "Even though we only have about 1,100 students, we have a lot of kids out. There's like 170 kids out for football right now."
Even still, Ennis and Whitehouse combined for twice as many playoff victories than Lindale had all of 2013.
"We can sit there and pout about it or we can go to work and say 'you know what? We've gotta compete against anybody they put in our district, no matter who it is,'" Meador said. "Lufkin's twice the size of us and Ennis has got about 500 more students than we do. Between the two, they're going to be hard to go against. But at the same time, our kids are going to believe that we've got a chance to go out there and play with them. There's upsets every week."
But Lindale's not asking for respect.
"We haven't earned that yet," said Lindale senior receiver Kolton Pierce. "But we're going to show a lot of people this year, because a lot of people underestimate us, even from within our school district. But we have a whole different attitude on this team."
For now, the only thing the Eagles can control is themselves.
"We're out here just trying to grind," said senior cornerback Deandre Williams. "There is a statement to be made."
Lindale will have plenty of opportunities to make statements. Even before the daunting task that is 16-5A, the Eagles will face defending 3A D-I state champion Carthage, perennial area power Chapel Hill and longtime rival Van.
"I think the kids know that the way we're going to have to do this is to come together as a team," said Meador, who's entering his ninth season in charge at Lindale. "They've got to believe in each other. Whether we're the big dog or not, we're excited about getting to prove people wrong."
While the entire Lindale team begins the 2014 season with a chip on its shoulder, two players in particular are trying to earn some respect of their own.
Pierce (6-1, 183) has been a mainstay on the Lindale varsity since his sophomore year, even though he hasn't always been able to contribute on the field. A broken leg during the second week of last season cost the promising prospect the remainder of the year.
"Last year Kolton was a starting safety and starting wideout, a big deal on our football team," Meador said. "He gives everything he's got, he's determined. He could've taken that broken leg, and that could've sidelined him forever. But he has worked hard to get back in shape. Honestly, he's stronger than he ever has been; I mean he looks good right now."
Meador said that while Pierce will be new quarterback Cam Neely's top receiving target this fall, don't be surprised to see the versatile athlete line up behind center or even in the backfield as a running back.
Despite enduring a long rehab process throughout much of the offseason, Division I colleges have begun taking an interest in Pierce. In a way, the next few months are personal for him.
"It's going to mean a lot for my recruitment because I don't have as much on film," said Pierce, who was one of the 115 athletes from all over the region that competed at the second annual ETSN.fm + APEC Football Recruiting Combine in June. "I'm just going to take it one game at a time, have fun, go out there for my brothers and play."
Williams (5-10, 168) is another Lindale standout that's garnered significant recruiting interest over the summer. And while he's a relative newcomer to the recruiting scene, the Eagles' corner has no shortage of confidence in himself and his abilities.
"I'm planning on being the ball-hawk; wherever the ball goes, that's where I'm going to be," said Williams, who had four interceptions last season. "No matter how big the receiver is, I'm locking them up."
Williams, who said he thinks offers are eventually coming from both UTSA and Texas State, put on a show at the ETSN combine. He ran a laser-timed 4.43 40-yard dash, good enough for third-fastest among all who competed. Williams also turned in the third-best broad jump, and was a top performer during position-specific one-on-one drills.
"Deandre's an incredible athlete … really had a good year last year, did a great job of locking down some really talented receivers," Meador said. "Whitehouse, John Tyler, Jacksonville and Nacogdoches -- a lot of those teams had some talented receivers and he did a great job covering them."
Lindale will scrimmage at Gladewater on Aug. 15 and at home vs. Hallsville on Aug. 22 before opening the regular season Aug. 29 at home against Chapel Hill.
"I'm excited about the enthusiasm out here; they're excited for football to be here," Meador said. "It's that time of the year and you can just feel the enthusiasm."