Rams' season ends; team looks to next year


St. Augustine Nease's Jared MacNaught grabs Eastside High School's Tim Shankle (21) near Eastside's end zone in the game at Nease High School.

EMILY BARNES/SPECIAL TO THE GUARDIAN
Published: Thursday, December 1, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 30, 2005 at 3:12 p.m.
The Eastside High School Mighty Rams' 2005 football season came to a screeching halt last Friday night at St. Augustine Nease. Led by the third-rated high school quarterback in the nation, Tim Tebow, according to rivals.com, the Panthers shredded the Rams defense from start to finish and ran away with a 57-21 victory.
The Rams' defense came into the game giving up less than 10 points and 250 yards a game. Throw out the Belleview quadruple overtime loss, and the stats are even more impressive.
None of that mattered Friday night. Tebow looked like he was ready to start for the Gators, or any big college program for that matter. He threw perfect pass after perfect pass all night. Seam patterns. Post patterns. Corner patterns. Screen passes. He threw for more than 370 yards, and ended up with 444 yards of total offense.
The Rams held it close in the first half. Nease raced down the field on its first possession to take a 6-0 lead, their PAT failed. After a failed onsides kick by Nease, the Rams started their first drive with good field position. Tim Shankle scored on a one-yard run, and Donovan Curry's PAT put the Rams up 7-6, giving the 400-strong Ram Nation that made the trip something to believe in.
The Panthers came right back to reclaim the lead. Eastside played with a lot of heart, never quitting, and went into the half down by a score of 22-14.
Tebow threw for 270 yards in the first half alone, breaking the state's career passing record formerly held by Xavier Lee of Daytona Beach Seabreeze. Lee, now playing at FSU, threw for 9,083 yards in his career. Tebow finished the Eastside game with 9,371 career yards, and still has at least one game to go.
Nease came out in the second half and didn't let up. They pulled away from the Rams, and their depth became too much for the tough young men wearing the Orange and Green to overcome.
"They have nothing to be ashamed of tonight," said Craig Howard, the Panthers' head coach. "They had some guys going both ways, and I think that took a toll on them. In a long season like this, the further you get in the playoffs, the more depth opposing teams have. It is hard to get by at this level playing guys both ways.
"My kids compared their speed on defense to that of Hoover's," Howard continued, referring to the nationally ranked Alabama school they faced earlier in the year. "We could barely get a hit on No. 1 (Micguel Johnson), and I love the toughness of that No. 21 (Tim Shankle). Eastside will be back."
Head Ram Kent Johnson praised the Panthers, and said he was proud of his team as well.
"They have at least 10-12 Division 1 prospects over there," Johnson said, walking with his head held high. "They beat us tonight, but I'm proud of my guys. We had a good season, and we left everything on the field. I wish the seniors well, and thank them for the ride we've been on and all the memories. I want the younger guys to focus on getting their academics the rest of the school year. That is what I want to emphasize to the underclassmen. It starts in the classroom, before the weight room."
After Johnson had addressed the team after the game, you could see the bond he has formed with his seniors.
"Thanks for letting me play, coach," said senior wide receiver Cameo Towns, as he embraced Coach Johnson.

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