LINDALE — Big games have become commonplace for Lindale this season, evidenced by home matchups against three-time defending state champion Carthage and top-ranked Chapel Hill.
Although those contests put a pair of state-ranked contenders on the same field, the winning team only received bragging rights and additional respect — the award for non-district games.
But Lindale’s biggest game of the season is Friday when the No. 10 Eagles (6-1, 2-0) meet neighborhood rival Van (7-0, 2-0) with the inside track to the District 14-3A title on the line.
The ETFinalScore.com Game of the Week is set for 7:30 p.m. from Eagle Stadium.
“Absolutely, it is (the biggest game of the season),” Lindale coach Mike Meador said. “The other two were big games and important, but they didn’t count. This one counts.”
The game is also the biggest of the season for Van, which posed its will against archrival Canton last week and has other games against fellow Van Zandt County schools on the schedule. The reason this game’s magnitude is greater is because Lindale is the main obstacle between the Vandals and a possible league title.
“I guess in a sense it’s the biggest game, because it’s the best team we’ve played so far,” Van coach Jared Moffatt said. “They are a really good 3A football team and it stands for the district championship at the moment.”
According to Meador, the game will likely be Eagle Stadium’s third sellout of the season and extra seating has been arranged so that no one will be turned away at the gate. The stadium capacity is estimated at 6,000, but that doesn’t include standing-room-only ticket buyers.
That means the energy level should be at a fever pitch on both sides of the field and in the nooks and crannies of the stadium, which should add to the overall experience for everyone involved. The same could be said for the matchup against Chapel Hill, which handed the Eagles their only loss of the season.
“It was packed all the way around it,” Meador said. “There were people standing in the back of trucks. It was very intense and it was a fun environment. You talk about Friday night football, and it’s as fun as it gets.”
Said Moffatt, who in his second year at the helm as embraced East Texas football after coaching nine seasons at Denton Ryan: “I think the kids (feed off the crowd) more than the coaches. Even as far as the kids are concerned, once you get the game going and once you get into the first quarter and get the first quarter out of the way and get into the game, things start to settle down a little bit. We think it’s going to be a great turnout on both sides.”
Should both teams make the playoffs, Lindale would be the district’s Division I representative and Van would go Division II. That means playoff seeding wouldn’t be on the line in this game, which in turn means upcoming games would determine the Vandals’ seed.
That said, both communities have looked forward to this matchup ever since the season started.
“There’s no doubt,” Moffatt said. “That’s one of the great things about being at a one high school town and playing high school football in Texas. Last week we played Canton and it wasn’t just our football team against Canton’s football team. It was the town of Canton against the town of Van. And Lindale is very similar. The towns are right next to each other and they’ve been playing each other for a long time.”
According to Meador, Eagle Stadium’s last sellout against Van occurred in 2007. The Lindale-Van draw has always been big and that could in the future, even though Lindale is expecting to return to 4A next fall.
“I don’t think it’s a hatred type of rivalry where you worry about fans getting into fights,” Meador said. “I know there are a lot of old-timers in our town that played in the 1950s and they played Van. It’s pretty intense. I think they’ve got a great program and it’s the same type of town as Lindale. You get a little bragging rights for a year and then you play again.”
Said Moffatt: “They are a great 3A football team this year and their coaches do a tremendous job coaching and they do a great job of executing on both sides of the ball. I think our kids understand they are playing a top 10 team in the state.”