Although the state playoffs want officially begin for a couple of more weeks, the Jacksonville Fight'n Indian football team has been in playoff manner all week as the Tribe (0-8, 0-3 16-4A) prepares to take on Lindale's Eagles (2-6, 1-2) at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Eagle Stadium in Lindale.
Jacksonville's football fate hinges on this week's game as the Indians are in a must win — must win this week AND next Friday when the regular season draws to close with Corsicana invading Tomato Bowl — situation if the Tribe are to qualify for post season for the third-consecutive season.
“We're already in playoff mode,” Jacksonville head coach, Chris Taber, said. “We've told our kids that this will be their first playoff game (Friday) and that they have to win this one to keep playing.
“We know that if we can win the next two games that we will (at least) get to play another week and that's what it's about, making the playoffs.”
Jacksonville will enter Friday's contest having come off of a 43-30 loss to John Tyler last week.
The Tribe played much better in that game, particularly on the offensive side where Jacksonville rolled up 403 total yards of offense.
The Indians moved the ball inside of the Lion 10 yard line with under two minutes to go in the game, before a turnover gave the ball to John Tyler and ended the Tribe's hopes at an upset win.
“We're playing our best football right now,” Taber said. “Even though we came up on the short end of the stick against John Tyler, our kids played very well and they executed the game plan very well. We had one of the top team's in our district on the ropes late.”
Taber noted an improved effort from the Indians' offensive line, which paved the way for quarterback Carter McCown to be more productive as well as created quite a few holes that Tribe runners took advantage of.
McCown went 23-43-2 for 264 yards and three touchdowns while Jacksonville rushed for a total of 139 yards.
Taber said that the Indians are expected to get Cash Cleaver and Davieon McGown back this week — both were injured in the Nacogdoches game.
Lindale defeated Corsicana, 42-26, last week. An Eagle win over the Indians will earn Lindale the fourth and final playoff spot out of 16-4A, so the Tribe should expect a top effort out of the Eagles this week.
“Last year we were in the position of coming into this game with a district win and needing one more to clinch a playoff spot and now Lindale is in that same position,” Taber said. “We know that Lindale will be fired up on Friday night.”
The paramount storyline from the Eagles' victory a week ago was the phenomenal success that backup running back Aaron Johnson had.
Johnson carried 29 times for 221 yards and four touchdowns to lead Lindale to the decisive victory.
“Prior to last week we saw more balance from Lindale,” Taber said. “They (Lindale) relied on pounding the rock last week and it really worked well for them. We are going to have to be able to stop the run, no question.”
Lindale's first win of the year came on Sep. 13 when the Eagles edged Van, 24-21.
In other 16-4A matchups scheduled for Friday, Whitehouse will be visiting Corsicana and John Tyler plays host to Nacogdoches.