Rams win homecoming game

Eastside's Tre Odom breaks up a pass during Friday's game against Crystal River at Citizens Field.

BRAD MCCLENNY/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 2:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 23, 2013 at 2:33 p.m.

The Eastside High School Rams football team celebrated homecoming and kept its chances alive to repeat as District 5-5A champions by crushing Crystal River High School 36-7 Friday night at Citizens Field.

During halftime, Tony Bryant and Brianna Grant were named homecoming king and queen.

The Rams (3-4 overall and 3-1 in the district) will have to beat Dunnellon on the road at 7 p.m. Friday to stay in the race for the district title, along with North Marion (5-2, 3-1) and Suwannee (5-1, 4-1). Eastside will play its last district game of the season at Santa Fe in Alachua at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 1, before returning home to close out the regular season on Senior Night against Bradford County High School at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 8.

North Marion has remaining district games at Santa Fe Thursday and at Belleview on Nov. 1, while Suwannee's lone remaining district game will be Nov. 1 at Crystal River.

Eastside coach Jeff Parker said it is simple what his team has to do to stay in the district race.

"They are going to have to play hard every week," Parker said. "We have Dunnellon coming up, and I don't know how they did against Suwannee tonight, but I know we are going to have to go down there and play hard."

Dunnellon (5-3 and 3-2) is coming off back-to-back beat downs of North Marion by a score of 34-7 and Suwannee by a score of 31-3, and will love nothing more than to beat the Rams and ruin their chances to repeat as district champions.

Parker and several of his players said the win over Crystal River was huge not just because it was homecoming and meant a lot in the race to repeat as district champions, but also because the Eastside family lost one of its own when Deidra Young, a student on the girls basketball team, died last Wednesday night.

"I am just glad our kids came out and played hard because we had a real rough week — we lost one of our own this week when one of our young ladies died Wednesday night — it's been real tough on everybody, and I am so proud of how the kids fought through tonight. To get going emotionally after having to deal with such a sad emotion is tough sometimes."

The entire Eastside team came out ready to play against Crystal River after coming out flat in a district loss to Suwannee two weeks earlier. Led by junior quarterback Malachi Lofland, the Eastside offense gained 220 rushing yards on 25 carries, including a 71-yard run by junior Octavious Simmons in the fourth quarter. Lofland rushed for four touchdowns, including two late in the third quarter to put the Rams ahead 29-0. Lofland also caught a touchdown pass from junior quarterback Landon Rogers.

The Rams defense also had a great game, holding the Pirates to just 161 total yards and not allowing them to score until the game was completely out of hand in the fourth quarter.

Lofland dedicated the game to his deceased classmate.

"This game meant a lot," Lofland said. "Deidra was a close friend to me, and to me, this game was for her. Despite everything that went down, this game was for her and I am sure she would have loved to see us win tonight."

Senior tight end Seth Brown echoed Lofland's sentiments.

"We came out and played hard because we felt like we had to lift the school up with a win in the district and to win this district game makes it that much more special," Brown said.

Parker said his team has shown a lot of character, growth and maturity after starting the season off with three straight losses and now the loss of a dear classmate.

"Our kids are buying into the family thing and they are persevering and doing what we ask them to do," Parker said.

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