This time one year ago, Lake Ridge was a football program searching for a signature win – a victory to announce the team had arrived after two years of slow strides. On tap was a trip to Lancaster, a program respected around the Metroplex as a perennial power. The Eagles went into Beverly D. Humphrey Tiger Stadium with upset on their minds, and though Lancaster ultimately prevailed, Lake Ridge learned a lot about itself.
“Hindsight is 20/20 and when you’re in the middle of a season you don’t realize it, but when you look back at last year, I think the fact that we were able to play Lancaster at their place and in such a close ball game, it really gave our program a sense of confidence that we could go play with really good teams,” Lake Ridge coach Kirk Thor said.
The Eagles actually led the game in the fourth quarter before Lancaster scored to scratch out a 21-18 victory. Lake Ridge outgained the Tigers in total yards.
“I think it definitely was a confidence-builder for us. ‘Moral victory’ is a term people use back and forth, but I think for us it did give us some confidence,” Thor added.
This season, Lake Ridge is an unblemished 3-0 heading into the district for the first time ever. And instead of thinking upset, the Eagles expect to win. But that doesn’t mean they’ll overlook the Tigers by any stretch.
“Lancaster isn’t just a team that’s good for one year, they’re a good program,” Thor said. “Every year they can plug in different names into positions, but they’re still going to have the same kind of success. They’re going to be really fast and the kids are going to play hard with high intensity. Anytime you play Lancaster you know it’s going to be a tough game.”
The Tigers are 2-1 and coming off a 26-14 loss to Euless Trinity, which was ranked No. 14 in the country according to USA Today (and likely to move up after three teams ahead of them lost over the weekend.) Thor contends neither him nor his players are surprised that Lancaster hung with the Trojans.
“I think our kids knew [Lancaster was good] regardless of the result of the Trinity game.”
The Eagles have nothing extra special planned for Lancaster, or so Thor says. The coach maintains this biggest thing after the non-district schedule is fine-tuning their schemes.
“We want to play to a certain standard, regardless of the score or our opponent. When you look at the game film, there are some things we feel like we’ve got to correct. We’ve got some issues in the kicking game we need to address. We’ve got a couple of breakdowns offensively and defensively we’ve got to address, so anytime you leave a game, whether it’s a loss or more excitedly a win, there’s certain things you always have to address.”
Following last year’s playoff run, it’s safe to say Lake Ridge has already arrived, so the Eagles don’t need a victory over Lancaster for that. But they do need a victory to remain undefeated and, more importantly, get out to a 1-0 start in what is shaping up to be a very tough district.