LINDEN, Texas – Linden-Kildare football coach Derek Simmons is upbeat, but realistic going into the 2018 high school season.
Simmon’s Tigers will field some of the best 2A football talent in Texas this fall, but at the same time he starts the season with only 17 varsity players.
Realignment also did L-K no favors. The Tigers will be competing in District 11-2A Division I, consisting of Tenaha, Garrison, Timpson, Joaquin, Beckville, Harleton and L-K.
“I’m excited about this season, although it didn’t make a lot of sense what the UIL did to us in realignment,” said Simmons, who is 12-9, including an 8-3 playoff campaign in 2017. “I”m going to be disappointed if we’re not playing the Tenaha Tigers on our field November 9 for the district championship.”
L-K won’t be the only school in district playing seven or eight kids both ways. Simmons doesn’t want his players moaning and groaning about playing the Tenahas, Garrisons and Timpsons. He wants those schools to be worried about playing his Tigers.
Those teams have reason to be worried, too.
Patterson, Johnson lead Linden-Kildare’s quest
Senior linebacker Ty Patterson and junior running back LaDavion Johnson give Linden-Kildare two of the best players in the state.
Patterson (6-1, 185) was named all-state last season after piling up 200 tackles, 23 for a loss. He forced 10 fumbles, recovered 5, while intercepting two passes. After lining up as a middle linebacker his sophomore season, Patterson was moved to strong-side where he covered the entire field.
Patterson saw little play on the offensive side last year, but that will probably change this season.
“I blame myself that we didn’t play Patterson more on offense last year,” Simmons said. “We didn’t have to have him. His role will be expanded this year, because he’s got a pretty good supporting cast on defense. I don’t know if his numbers will go up, or down, I expect them to be about the same.”
Johnson was statistically one of the most explosive backs in East Texas in 2017. He carried the ball 195 times for 1,988 yards and 28 touchdowns. Johnson also plays in the secondary on defense.
Linden-Kilare returns 16 starters in 2018
The Tigers return seven offensive starters, and nine on defense.
Quarterback Jacob Owen is back, and he will also play in the secondary. The offensive line has experience with Draydon Delese, Nic Kunze, Landon Liles and Jeremy Hankins returning.
L-K hopes to throw the ball when necessary. The key will be the development of the team’s young receivers. Dalton Alford, Deuce Shuler and Marquise Jones will be some of Owen’s targets.
Defensively, the Tigers’ strength will be at linebacker with Patterson, Delese and Nate Holloway.
“We’re having to pull some young kids up to fill in on special teams,” Simmons said. “Obviously, our number one thing is staying healthy. We feel great about the kids we have back, but when one goes down, it’s like losing two or three players. If we stay healthy I’m expecting big things for us.”