Rams’ season down to wire

Win last week was just the beginning


Published: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 3:07 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, October 30, 2013 at 3:07 p.m.

The Eastside High School football team will travel to Alachua Friday night to play District 5-5A foe Santa Fe High School with hopes of keeping their state playoff chances alive.

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Eastside’s Malachi Lofland (10) eludes Dunnellon’s Justin Hamm (1) for a large gain during last Friday’s victory over Dunnellon High School. Eastside can ensure itself of a spot in a three-way tiebreaker with a win this Friday night over Santa Fe.

Bruce Ackerman/Special to the Guardian

Facts

EASTSIDE GAME

* What: Eastside High School Rams will face Santa Fe High School Raiders.

* When: 7:30 p.m. Friday.

* Where: Santa Fe High School, Alachua.

* Cost: $7.

* Information: 352-955-6704.

The Rams, 4-4 overall and 4-1 in district play, kept their playoff hopes alive by getting past their own mistakes, numerous questionable calls by referees and a feisty Dunnellon team in a 20-17 victory on the road last Friday night at Tiger Stadium in Dunnellon.

The victory over Dunnellon kept the Rams in a three-way tie for first place in the district with Suwannee (6-1, 4-1) and North Marion High School (6-2, 4-1).

If the Rams are able to beat Santa Fe at 7:30 p.m. Friday on the road, they will ensure themselves of at least a spot in a three-team district tie-breaker that will be played at 7 p.m. Nov. 4 at Suwannee because the Bulldogs have a better overall record than the Colts or Rams.

The format of the district tie-breaker will have Eastside and North Marion playing a 12-minute quarter to see which team will advance to play Suwannee in the next 12-minute quarter. If Suwannee wins the second quarter, they will be district champions and the team they beat will be district runner-ups. However, if Suwannee loses in that second quarter, they will have to play the loser of the first quarter to determine who will be the district runner-up.

Santa Fe will be celebrating homecoming Friday night, and will love nothing more than to beat the Rams for the third consecutive year, and the Rams are well aware of that. After their win at Dunnellon, Eastside coach Jeff Parker said his team will have to be focused against the Raiders.

"I just told the boys this is a big week, and we are going to have to come out and play because they are going to throw out all of the stops to keep us from making it to the playoffs," Parker said.

Senior defensive end Barry Johnson, the most vocal leader on the Eastside team, said the Rams will be ready to play against Santa Fe. He said he told his teammates in the practices before the Dunnellon game that respect is not given, it must be earned.

"This win was big for us tonight, and now we are looking forward to going to Santa Fe to get another big district win," said Johnson, a four-year varsity letterman for the Rams. "Santa Fe has beat us the last two years, and we are going there for revenge. We are going there to play. It's another district game, and it is just as important as this game was tonight."

The Rams will probably have to start the game at Santa Fe better than they started at Dunnellon. The Rams offense turned the ball deep in its own territory on its first three possessions of the game, allowing the Tigers to jump out to a 10-0 lead when Josh Williams took a toss sweep around the right end for a 24-yard touchdown run with 2:42 left in the first quarter. Zack West made a 37-yard field goal earlier in the quarter.

The Rams defense kept the offense in the game with two goal-line stands, one right before the first half ended, allowing the Rams to take a 13-10 lead into halftime. The Rams scored two touchdowns in the second quarter on short runs by junior running back Octavious Simmons, who also scored on a 23-yard run in the third quarter to extend the Eastside lead to 20-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

The second half was full of questionable calls by the referees that negated two Dunnellon turnovers that would have given Eastside the ball with good field position. After Dunnellon scored on a 44-yard pass play with 5:24 left to play in the fourth, the Eastside offense failed to move the ball and had to punt to Dunnellon.

The little momentum Dunnellon had at that point was literally snatched from them when Eastside senior safety D'Quan Davis made an acrobatic one-handed interception in the middle of the field to seal the victory for the Rams.

Parker said his team is learning how to overcome adversity in games.

"That is what we have been talking about all year," Parker said. "We have to play football the whole game. We made some mistakes early and spotted them 10 points, but I am proud of the way our boys fought back."

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