Lindsay’s season-opener is Friday vs. Farmersville
When Lindsay High School football takes the field Friday evening, it will be the first time in 483 days that the Cardinals suit up and play a game.
The COVID-19 pandemic nearly destroyed Lindsay’s chances to have a season. But with guidance from the state and county health officials and backing from the administration, the Cardinals are ready to go.
“We’ve been putting in work for the go-ahead to start the season. We’re ready,” said junior receiver and cornerback Diego Salas.
On the schedule for Lindsay is Farmersville this Friday, Woodlake on March 26, and Corcoran on April 1. Friday’s game against Farmersville will be both team’s first game of the season and the Cardinals’ Senior Night. The Cardinals beat the winless Aztecs 64-6 last season.
Knowing that every game has a chance of being canceled, first-year head coach Casey Higginbotham tells his athletes to stay positive through it all.
“Think of the best outcome that we are going to have all three games and just prepare like we are,” he said. “Like I preach to the kids, prepare like we’re going to have a season. Even though if we get canceled or moved, keep preparing that we are going to have a season.”
Lindsay is coming off a successful 2019 campaign that saw the Cardinals (9-4, 4-2 ESL) finish third in the East Sequoia League with a trip to the CIF Central Section Division VI semifinals. Nine players received All-ESL selections, including running back Daniel Trujillo (All-ESL Offensive MVP) and wide receiver and corner Mario Diaz (Speciality Player of the Year).
Senior center Ben Macias is the only honored player that didn’t graduate. He will be the team’s center.
“That’s like the leader of the line that helps out greatly,” Higginbotham said. “We have some linemen that were on the team last year that have the experience. Of course, we lost all of our main, big starters. But we have those ones that played the backup role last year that have the experience that we expect to step in and take over. But having Benny helps out a lot cause he’s the quarterback of the line, and he helps all the lineman out.”
Lindsay is returning several skills position players, specifically at quarterback and wide receiver, but senior Salvador Perez will be the team’s new running back.
Through 13 games last season, quarterback Randon Gomez threw for 848 yards and 13 touchdowns on 59-of-128 completions. Gomez said he never gave up hope that the season would happen and continued to train even when things didn’t look good.
“This offseason was a productive offseason and we never lost hope,” Gomez said. “We knew we were going to have a season. They fought for us. So we were always out here working.”
The Cardinals have only had a little over two weeks to prepare for the season, but that’s not bothering Gomez, who has his eye on an undefeated season.
“I feel like we’re going to do good,” he said. “Hopefully, go undefeated. These guys that are out here today, we’ve all played together since we were little. We were always the smallest team out there, but we’re mighty. We’re small and mighty. We know each other, we know our chemistry that we can do together. I think we can do pretty good with a little bit of practice. I think we’re going to go out there and do some damage out there.”
Along with Salas, junior Elian Ibarra will be one of Gomez’s top targets. Ibarra was the team’s No. 2 wide receiver last year, finishing with 176 yards and four touchdowns on nine receptions behind Diaz’s 831 yards and 10 receptions on 49 receptions.
Diaz said that although this isn’t a typical season, he’s looking forward to playing these games with the seniors.
“It’s exciting to at least play three games after not being able to have a season,” he said. “It (is) a different form of how we’re going to play because of this pandemic, but I just expect it to be a good season with our seniors. Last three games we’ll be able to play with them.”
When it comes to having only a few weeks to prepare, Higginbotham said you start with the basics. Having the basics down allows for players to pick up things better, and it is what’s working well for some defensive players.
“We’ve got a bunch of skilled, quick players,” Higginbotham said. “And that’s what we need to run what we’re going to run. The defensive linemen are looking good. We have in the basics. The kids pick it up extremely fast. So we’re just moving on schedule, and we’re looking good.”
This season will go by fast for Lindsay, so the only goal the coach is giving is for everyone to enjoy it.
“Have fun, make memories,” he said. “Nobody thought we were going to be here playing. So have fun. These kids are great teammates. They’ve been that way since they were little kids. Just having memories, just having fun. So take advantage of what we got cause we weren’t going to have this. Push forward with everything.”