LINDEN — The Linden-Kildare Tigers square off with the Kerens Bobcats Thursday at Wildcat Stadium in Big Sandy in the bi-district round of the 2A Division 1 playoffs.
It is the first time since 2014 the Tigers (8-2, 3-2) have made the postseason, but head football coach Derek Simmons is not satisfied to be invited to the dance; he wants his team to dance for a few songs.
“Our big deal even [Tuesday] was just for us to not to be happy just to be in the playoffs,” said Simmons. “We’re in it for a reason. We deserve to be in it, and I hope they look at it that way. We have a chance, if we play the right way, to win a couple playoff games and keep this thing rolling.”
Kerens (6-4, 3-2) features an athletic, fast team the likes of which has not been seen by Linden-Kildare since the Clarksville game on Sept. 8. Not only are the Bobcats agile, but they feature beef on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
“They’ll definitely have a size advantage on us, which that’s been the case for us, because we’re not very big football team.,” Simmons said, “but our kids aren’t going to back down from that, and they know that going in. They’re a playoff team from last year. They won a bi-district playoff game from last year. So, they’ll have a little bit of that playoff experience on us. I think we match up well with them in places.”
Kiyandre Faulk is a 6-2 senior running back that will no doubt challenge Linden-Kildare’s defense to wrap up. On the defensive side of the ball, Faulk plays safety for the Bobcats’ 3-4 defense.
Said Simmons: “They like to play a lot of man coverage with a lot of athletes on the back end of it. They’re not going to try to trick you. They’re going to line up and come right at you and use their strength with the big guys up front and let their linebackers and their secondary make plays.”
What’s that clicking noise?
Coach Simmons breaks up a football season into three seasons within one. The first season is the pre-district part of the schedule.
“Season one, we were 5-0 and played really, really well,” said Simmons.
The district schedule, season two, got off to a rough start with two consecutive losses to Honey Grove and Rivercrest. But the Tigers bounced back with a win against James Bowie, a 61-21 victory versus the undefeated Wolfe City, and then a strong season finale win at Boles.
“It’s a mini-tournament where you have to win to keep playing,” Simmons explained. “We’ll see how we respond. Some of these kids as freshmen, maybe a few sophomores were on the last playoff team. But as far as playoff experience, we don’t have a lot of it and I hope we continue it for a little while.”
Hear the Tigers take on Kerens Thursday at 7:00 p.m. on KPYN 900 AM/95.5 FM, KPYN.net, and also on the Freed AM Sports app. Marlon Sullivan and Pat Roberson will have the call from Big Sandy with the winner playing the winner of Groveton-Carlisle.