Eastside teams hope for a great season
Published: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 4:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 7, 2013 at 4:04 p.m.
The Eastside High School football team is getting ready to defend the district championship it won last season, while the boys and girls basketball teams are seeking to do better than being district runner-ups again this year.
7:30 p.m. Aug. 23 at Palatka (Fall Classic).
7:30 p.m. Aug. 30 vs. Buchholz at Citizens Field.
7:30 p.m. Sept. 6 vs. GHS at Citizens Field.
7:30 p.m. Sept. 13 at Ocala Trinity Catholic.
7:30 p.m. Sept. 20 at *Belleview.
7:30 p.m. Sept. 27 vs. *North Marion at Citizens Field.
7:30 p.m. Oct. 4 vs. *Suwannee at Citizens Field.
7:30 p.m. Oct. 18 vs. *Crystal River (Homecoming) at Citizens Field.
7:30 p.m. Oct. 25 at *Dunnellon.
7:30 p.m. Nov. 1 at *Santa Fe.
7:30 p.m. Nov. 8 vs. Bradford (Senior Night) at Citizens Field.
* Denotes District games
Teams throughout the Eastside sports program will join the football and basketball teams in a quest to duplicate the success the entire sports program had last year.
In addition to their success on the grid iron and basketball court, the Rams were district champions in boys and girls cross-country, boys and girls soccer, girls track and field, boys and girls tennis and volleyball, and a district runner-up in boys swimming, girls swimming and diving and wrestling.
Monday was the first day of practice for the football team and also several other teams at the school.
Coach Jeff Parker is entering his third year at the helm of the program and he is expecting his team to compete for another district title. Last year, the Rams won the District 5-5A title. Suwannee High School was added to the district this year to join Belleview, Crystal River, Dunnellon, Eastside, North Marion and Santa Fe.
To prepare for the season, the Rams left for Camp Blanding Tuesday morning for the "3rd annual Eastside Boyz Pride Camp, which Parker said is designed to build camaraderie. The team will return on Saturday.
The team will practice for two hours a day during the camp and the rest of the pre-season. Parker said players will not be allowed to have any cell phones or electronic devices while away at Camp Blanding.
Parker said he hopes the lessons the players will learn while at Camp Blanding will help them to go further than the team did last year when they made it to the regional semifinals, where they lost 52-0 on the road to Pasco County High School.
"They are going to need to buy into the way we are coaching and learn how to be a team at all times," Parker said. "They are going to have to learn how to deal with adversity as it is dealt to them, which I think our team did that last year, and I expect them to do it even more this year."
Parker also said he is very excited to get the season started because he is expecting great things from his team.
"I can't sleep," he said. "I'm ready to roll."
Hopefully, his team is ready to roll as well because after an Aug. 23 Fall Classic preseason game against Palatka on the road, the Rams will face city rivals Buchholz (Aug. 30) and Gainesville (Sept. 6), the first two games of the season for the first time in recent memory, if ever.
Parker said the defense will be led by senior defensive end Barry Johnson, who was recently selected to the Gainesville Sun Super 11 team, lineman Michael Linton, linebacker Quin King and safety D'Quan Davis, all seniors.
He said the offense will be led by tight end Seth Brown, lineman Kevin Jenkins, wide receiver Keandre McCray and running back Dantez Willis, all seniors, and quarterback Landon Rogers, running back Octavious Simmons and lineman Greg Turnage, all juniors.
Parker said the Rams will play the same type of football he has espoused throughout his tenure at Eastside.
"We want to be a hard-nosed, physical football team that plays with great discipline and passion," he said.
Coach Pop Williams is entering his 18th season as the coach of the Rams, and if all the players he is expecting to have on his team this year actually play for him, the Rams could make a deep run in the state playoffs and possibly bring home the school's second state title in eight years.
Williams led the Rams to the Class 5A state championship in 2006. The first day of practice is Oct. 28.
He said the players he is expecting to lead the team this year will by power forward Mike Harris, guard Thomas Lundy, point guard Marquez Ross and guard Aubrey Strong, all juniors.
He also is looking for great things from wing man senior Mikell Hicks and fellow seniors Seth Brown and Barry Johnson, both post players who are expected to join the team after football season. Brown and Johnson did not play basketball last season, after helping the Rams basketball team make it to the regional finals as sophomores in 2011-2012 season.
The Rams finished with a 13-16 record last year after losing to district foe Palatka four times, with the last loss coming on the road in a regional semifinal state playoff game in Palatka. The Rams' remaining losses mostly came to teams that made deep runs in the state tournament.
"We are going to be in good shape to have a great season if all of the players I expect to play actually play for us this season," Williams said.
Williams said the team had a good summer participating in several events, including the University of Florida basketball camp and the Goodwill Games in Lake City, in addition to a summer league camp he organizes locally.
"We went 20-7 during our summer games and we looked pretty good at times," Williams said.
Entering his second year as coach of the Lady Rams, Lance Radford is expecting his team to improve upon its accomplishments last season, which included the team making it to the Class 5A regional semifinals.
The first day of practice is Oct. 21.
Radford said he spent the summer working on conditioning and improving fundamental skills with six to eight players at a time, adding that he couldn't spend as much time with his players as he would have liked because a new floor was being installed in the Eastside gym and several players were traveling with AAU teams, while several others attended camps.
"Anybody that was around came to the gym when it was open and they just spent a lot of time during the week working on their games until we had to get the floor done," Radford said.
Radford said the Lady Rams, whose record was 13-13 last year, will be led this year by a host of juniors, including shooting guard A'nikeyawna Barber, whom Radford described as being "the biggest key" to the success of the team this year. Radford said there will be no seniors on the team this year. The other juniors who will help Barber lead the team will be center Shadayzha Bullock and guards Errel James and Deidra Young.
"I am excited about getting the season started in a few months because the girls have had a chance to play in my system and I think they understand it better now," Radford said.