Eastside musters up win against Belleview
Published: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 4:49 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 at 4:49 p.m.
* What: Eastside High School will take on North Marion High School.
* When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
* Where: Citizens Field.
* Cost: $7.
* Information: Call 352-955-6704.
Three weeks of bumps, bruises and bad results finally came to an end Friday for Eastside High School.
The Rams, coming off three straight losses to heavyweight opponents by a combined score of 88-6, were elated to finally square off against an opponent from District 5-5A, where Eastside happens to be the defending champions.
It wasn't always pretty — and it certainly wasn't easy — but the Rams broke into the win column with a dramatic 34-31 win over upstart Belleview.
"Hey, look, a win cures a whole lot of issues on a team," Eastside coach Jeff Parker said. "When you lose three games in a row, it's a lot of things. We won, so I'm proud of that."
Parker has reason to be proud of his defense, too. The unit certainly bent — allowing 31 total points and surrendering the lead with 3:34 left in the game — but it didn't break.
After Dantez Willis ran in the go-ahead TD from 20 yards out with three minutes to go, the Rams' D tightened up and closed what had been a red-hot Rattler offense on four straight plays, icing the game.
"That's the purpose, that's why we played those three tough games early," Parker said. "We've been in tough situations, we've been down, and we know how to fight."
The Rams and Rattlers did a little fighting literally, too. A fourth-quarter brawl erupted near the Eastside sideline that resulted in ejections for the Rams' Mykell Hicks and Belleview's Marvin Reynolds.
It wasn't the the only ugly spot in an otherwise thrilling game. Eastside picked up a whopping 199 penalty yards including nine 15-yarders compared to just seven Belleview flags for 46 yards. The Rams also threw three interceptions, but there were plenty of high points on offense to offset them.
Willis and Eastside QB Malachi Lofland combined for 187 rushing yards with a TD each, while Octavious Simmons converted both of his carries into TD runs and gained 53 total yards. Lofland also completed 10 passes for 144 yards.
Receiver Kieandre McCray scored Eastside's game-opening TD on an end-around from 15 yards out.
Belleview (2-1, 0-1) fought back, though, and took its first lead of the game, 21-20, with 90 seconds remaining in the first half on the first of quarterback Erik Pitts' two 1-yard touchdown runs.
An onside kick, then a 44-yard Corey Irwin field goal stretched the Rattlers' advantage to 24-20 at the break, but Eastside retook command to start the third quarter with an 81-yard drive and a two-yard TD run by Lofland.
Belleview led for the final time on senior Craig Riche's 78-yard highlight-reel run, but Eastside needed only 30 seconds to answer, then never looked back.
The Rams (1-3, 1-0) return to action Friday for a home game against North Marion (3-1, 1-0), a team Eastside unseated as district champs a year ago with a 42-41 overtime win.
Andy Marks is an Ocala Star-Banner staff writer.