Eastside keeping losses in perspective

Team travels to Trinity Catholic on Friday

Published: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at 2:44 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 at 2:44 p.m.

With losses of its top two rivals behind them, the Eastside High School football team is looking forward to traveling to Ocala Trinity Catholic to play its last tune-up early-season game before starting its District 5-5A schedule next week at Belleview.

The Rams, who lost 31-0 to crosstown rival Gainesville High School Friday night at a rain-soaked Citizens Field, will look to improve in all phases of the game when they play at 7 p.m. Friday at Trinity Catholic at 2600 SW 42nd St. in Ocala.

The Celtics are the No. 4 ranked team in Class 3A by Floridahsfootball.com. Trinity Catholic, along with GHS and Buchholz High School, who the Rams lost to in a 13-6 heartbreaker on Aug. 30 at Citizens Field, all won at least one game in the state playoffs last season in their respective classes.

Despite their 0-2 start this season, the Rams players and coaches know all of their goals for the season are still obtainable because they have yet to play a game in defense of the district championship they won last year. After the game against GHS, two of the leaders of the team, senior defensive end Barry Johnson and junior quarterback Landon Rogers, talked to their teammates about putting the loss to GHS in perspective.

"They told their teammates that this loss is nothing to them because its all about 5A, and its about the goals we have for 5A, and that is what's important," said Eastside coach Jeff Parker, explaining what Johnson and Rogers told the team after the game.

Trailing 7-0, the Rams defense forced GHS star running back Tony James to fumble on the Purple Hurricanes' own 32-yard line with 2:38 to play in the second quarter. With junior Malachi Lofland at quarterback because of an injury to Rogers, the Rams moved the ball to the GHS five-yard line after Lofland hit senior slot back Dantez Willis on a pass play.

That was the closest the Rams got to the end zone the entire game. They came away with no points on that drive because they loss 10 yards on a bad snap that Lofland fell on at the 15 with 45.3 seconds left in the half. After Parker called a timeout, the Rams were called for holding on the next play, and Lofland couldn't handle the snap on the next play, and just like that, the Rams were on the 42. The first half ended with the Rams only chance of scoring when a pass by Lofland barely sailed pass the outstretched hands of senior wide receiver Keandre McCray in the end zone.

After halftime, GHS took control of the game when a blown assignment by the Rams defense allowed GHS sophomore quarterback Caelan Christian to hit senior wide receiver Kenric Young, who was wide open running down the right sideline, for a 58-yard touchdown on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter to make the score 14-0.

Parker said giving up the easy touchdown to begin the second half was a big moment in the game.

"That kind of stole the momentum I felt we had going in to halftime," Parker said.

Parker said it is disappointing to lose to crosstown rivals, but he said the Eastside schedule was set up to play tough teams at the beginning of the season in order to prepare the team for district play.

"This team (GHS) played for the 6A championship last year and it's a good football team, and Buchholz has a heck of a football team, and when we get to our district schedule, I expect our boys to be sharp and ready to roll," Parker said. "That's the purpose of this schedule — to prepare us for 5A."

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