LINDEN — The Linden-Kildare Tigers have a tall order Friday night when the undefeated Rivercrest Rebels march into Jack Hetherington Tiger Stadium.
However, Tigers (5-1, 0-1) head coach Derek Simmons, who has made his players aware of the reality of playing the Rebels (6-0, 1-0), doesn’t believe Rivercrest is invulnerable.
“Are they unbeatable? I don’t think so,” Simmons said on the weekly “Coaches Show” from Uncle Juan’s in Courthouse Square. “Up to this point, they have been unbeatable, but I felt like if we get back to playing the way we played the first five weeks, I feel like we have the opportunity or the capability as one of the few teams in the district that would have a shot at beating them. We’ve got to get that across to our kids that they are not unbeatable.”
The Tigers dropped a 27-18 decision to Honey Grove last Friday, their first loss on the year. Now with a team that has a 39.3-point margin of victory prepared to emerged from the visitor dressing room, Coach Simmons emphasized how formidable the Rebels are.
Said Simmons: “You don’t want to sugarcoat it first and foremost. Rivercrest is who Rivercrest is. They’re good. That was one of the first things that we told them before we let them go Saturday talking about they know who is coming up. They’re good. We told them.”
Simmons doesn’t know if Rivercrest is a better team than their 10-1 squad that went 5-0 in the 2A-1 Region III District 9 before a one-and-done playoff appearance against Kerens. But Simmons does know his team can run with the Rebels.
“I don’t know that they’re better than they were last year. I don’t think they’re any worse, but our thought is we’re better than we were last year. I thought for a half at their place last year we played them pretty tough. It was pretty much back and forth up through a half. We had a late turnover right before halftime that kind of swung some momentum. Once they got to rolling in the second half, we really answered for them.
“But I think we’re better. I think we present a few problems to them that they haven’t seen up to this point. We’ve just got to get back to doing the things that we did the first five weeks, being aggressive on defense, taking care of the football a little bit better on offense, blocking a little bit better up front. Just go in with the mindset, and, again, the other thing we told them it’s just like it was last year.”
Accentuate the positive
Even though Linden-Kildare suffered a ding to their perfect record to this point, and the lone loss coming in the district opener, the Tigers have moved on. According to Simmons, the players were ready to get back to work the next day.
“We saw some of that Saturday morning,” said Simmons. “We had full participation at the film session and blocking and conditioning and things like that. It would be real easy to roll over and play dead at this point, but it’s one game. That was our whole message. It was one game. It was one loss.”
Catch Linden-Kildare take on Rivercrest with Marlon Sullivan and Pat Roberson on the call Friday night at 7:30 p.m. on KPYN.net, or listen to the replay 9:30 a.m. Saturday on KPYN 900 AM/95.5.