Rams in good position for championship run
Published: Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 2, 2013 at 7:19 p.m.
Despite playing without six defensive starters because of suspensions resulting from a small skirmish against Belleview in their previous game, the Eastside Rams football team beat traditional power North Marion High School 13-10, putting themselves in good position to repeat as District 5-5A champions for the second consecutive year.
What: Eastside High School will take on North Marion High School.
When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.
Where: Citizens Field.
Information: Call 955-6704.
The Rams will further their chances of repeating as distinct champions if they beat Suwannee County High School in a district game that will be played at 7:30 p.m. Friday at Citizens Field. Tickets cost $7. The Bulldogs are 2-1 overall and 1-1 in district play. The Rams are 2-3 overall and 2-0 in district play.
Eastside coach Jeff Parker has said all season long that the tough opponents the Rams played in their first three games would have his team more than ready for district play.
"That's Eastside football right there!" Parker shouted to his team as they circled around him for their usual post-game prayer.
"Don't it feel good to win?" shouted a player before the prayer. Winning must feel good to the Rams because they have won their first two district games after starting the season 0-3 with losses against city rivals Buccholz High School and Gainesville High School and perennial small school powerhouse Ocala Trinity Catholic by a combined score of 88-6. The Rams won their first game of the year Sept. 20 on the road at Belleview by a score of 34-31.
The Rams used a strong running game to beat the Colts, along with a defensive effort that featured a lot of offensive players playing defense as well. In fact, the victory was sealed when senior wide receiver Keandre McCray was in the game as a defensive back and intercepted a North Marion pass with 2:05 left in the game.
The Rams scored first when junior running back Octavius Simmons scored on a five-yard run with 10:20 to play in the second quarter. The Colts scored their first points on a 22-yard field goal just before halftime to make the score 7-3 headed into intermission. The Rams scored the game-winning points on a quarterback keeper by junior quarterback Malachi Lofland with 6:06 to play in the third quarter.
The Colts continually shot themselves in the foot by committing numerous penalties, but managed to convert on a fourth-and-six play when Robert Johnson hit a wide open Freddie Swain down the right sideline for a 35-yard touchdown to make the score 13-10 in the fourth quarter. Later in the quarter, the Colts had the ball on their own 31 with 3:16 to play, but after two completions, McCray sealed the win for the Rams with his interception.
Parker said winning the first two district games of the year is fantastic, and is what he was hoping for when he made the Rams' schedule.
"Winning our first two district games is huge," Parker said. "This is a tough district, and you have to win every week, and for us to come in here and have to face North Marion down six defensive starters — these guys came together and they played together."
Parker said he is proud of the way his team responded to the challenge.
"Our kids came out and fought," Parker said. "They finally came out and played Eastside football, and I am so proud of what they have done, and I just want them to keep going."
When asked his thoughts about how star senior defensive end Barry Johnson challenged the defensive replacements to man up, Parker gave Johnson the highest praise.
"Barry is one of the best leaders I have ever coached in my life," Parker said. "He wills these kids to play football. To watch their efforts tonight, it is just a great feeling."
Parker also had praise for senior running back Dantez Willis, who also played defensive back against North Marion.
"Tez is not a big fellow in stature, but his heart is huge. That kid is a warrior," Parker said.
Willis rushed 16 times for 123 yards in the game, and Simmons rushed for 66 yards on six carries.