Remember the Rams

Nate Williams, center, of Eastside High School, celebrates after sacking Ocala Vanguard quarterback Tyrell Lewis in the third quarter of the Rams 35-3 victory last Thursday at Citizens Field.

AARON DAYE/Special to the Guardian
Published: Thursday, November 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 31, 2007 at 4:57 p.m.

With a convincing 35-3 win over Ocala Vanguard last Thursday night at Citizens Field, the Eastside High School football team has made it to the state playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.

The Rams (7-1, 4-0 in District 6-4A) can win the district outright with a victory Friday night at Leesburg, who is 7-2 overall and also undefeated in District 6-4A, with a 4-0 record.

Leesburg traditionally is a tough team, but if the Rams play like they have been playing so far this season, they should be able to handle the Yellow Jackets like they handled Vanguard, even without three star seniors who missed the game due to injuries.

Standout wide receiver Freddy Jones was out because of a thumb injury and standout linemen Tyrone Dixon and Louis McLeod were both out due to minor injuries suffered in a car accident.

The game began with Eastside kicking off and Vanguard beginning its first possession by mixing the run with a short passing game out of the shotgun formation. However, their drive was cut short when the hard hitting Rams' defense caused a fumble, the first of five they would recover on the night, with 10:09 to play in the first quarter.

The Rams marched right down the field and scored on an 8-yard run by Kendrick Nelson to make the score 7-0 with 5:24 left in the quarter.

Vanguard came back on its next possession and got a 54-yard field goal from Colin Corpe to make the score 7-3. Vanguard then successfully executed an onside kick, but couldn't get a first down, and sent Corpe back in to attempt another field goal.

Eastside blocked the kick and the ball fell into the hands of Rams lineman Greg Gibbs, who raced 63 yards for a touchdown to make the score 14-3 at halftime.

Things quieted down in the third quarter, as each team failed to score. However, the Rams scored on all of its possessions in the fourth quarter.

The Rams began their scoring in the fourth quarter when Miles Harris scored from 8 yards out to make the score 21-3. The 45-yard drive was set up when the Rams defense recovered one of Vanguard's fumbles.

After the Rams' defense stopped Vanguard again, the Rams' offense unleashed Kevin Kelly, who had a spectacular 63-yard touchdown run to make the score 28-3. Kelly finished the game with 140 yards on eight carries.

Johnny "Johnny Rocket" Littles scored the last points of the game on a 17-yard run to make the final score 35-3.

At the end of the game, Eastside Head Coach Kent Johnson talked to his team about what it takes to go from being a good team to a great team.

Senior quarterback Desmond O'Neal said he was pleased with the way other players stepped in for the injured players.

"We were short tonight playing without Freddy Jones, Louis McLeod and Tyrone Dixon, but we treat everybody like they are starters," O'Neal said, adding that all players at each position are drilled on the same techniques to use. "When somebody goes down, somebody else has to step in. We have to keep on going."

If the team can stay healthy, Eastside could be poised to make a deep run in the playoffs. The Rams have suffered some painful playoff losses the past three years beginning with a 28-26 first-round loss to Tallahassee Leon at Citizens Field in 2004. That season followed two years of the team going 2-8.

In 2005, the Rams lost 57-21 to University of Florida quarterback Tim Tebow when he was the leader of Nease High School in a regional final contest played at Nease in Ponte Vedra.

Last year, the Rams lost to Daytona Beach Seabreeze High School 28-6 at Citizens Field in a regional semifinal game. Seabreeze was led by major college quarterback prospect Troy "Little Tebow" Dannehower. This is his last year at Seabreeze.

After traveling to Leesburg Friday, the Rams will complete the regular season Nov. 9 at Citizens Field against crosstown rival Gainesville High School. The game starts at 7:30 p.m.

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