Eastside seniors end high school careers with win

Published: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 1:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 1:33 p.m.

The seniors on the Eastside High School football team ended their high school careers with a collective "bang" in a 38-25 victory over state playoff-bound Bradford County High School.

The Rams, who will not be going to the playoffs this year after going as District 5-5A champions last year, racked up close to 500 yards of offense during the game last Friday night against Bradford at Citizens Field. The Rams finished the season 5-5 overall and 4-2 in the district, coming in third place behind district champion North Marion and runner-up Suwannee, both of whom finished 5-1 in the district.

Bradford, 3-6 and 3-1, made it to the playoffs as the runner up in District 4-4A.

Eastside coach Jeff Parker received emotional hugs from several seniors after the game and had nothing but great things to say about them and the way the team played.

"It is great our seniors got a chance to go out with a victory to end their high school careers," Parker said. "I am really happy for them."

Parker said the seniors on the team really worked hard since he became coach in December 2010, but he is disappointed the team didn't make it to the playoffs this year. He said making the playoffs wasn't "meant to be this year," and he is looking forward to seeing what is in store for the Rams next year.

If they play next year like they played against Bradford, the returning playmakers on offense should make the Rams a hard team to defend. Junior running backs Malachi Lofland and Octavious Simmons both rushed for more than 100 yards. Simmons rushed for 163 yards and Lofland, who also plays quarterback, rushed for 117 yards. Junior quarterback Landon Rodgers completed 14-of-22 passes for 198 yards and a touchdown.

The Rams led 25-6 at halftime and never looked back. One of the highlights in the game came when senior tight end Seth Brown caught a touchdown pass on a flea flicker when Rodgers threw a lateral to Lofland, who then threw the ball to Brown running down the middle of the field behind the Bradford defense.

Brown, who is considering playing college football at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, said since going to the playoffs was off the table, Parker did a great job getting the team focused on getting a win for the seniors.

"Everybody's mindset was focused on getting a win, and that is what we did — we took care of business," said Brown, who was listed as 6-foot-3 and 249 pounds on the Eastside roster at the beginning of the season.

Barry Johnson, a 6-foot-3 255-pound senior defensive end and team leader, said it hurt him before and after the game to think about it being his last game as a Ram.

"I thank the underclassmen for sending us out with a big win," said Johnson, who has scholarship offers from the University of Central Florida in Orlando, University of New Hampshire in Durham, N.H., University of Utah in Salt Lake City, and others.

Kevin Jenkins, a 6-foot 358-pound senior offensive lineman, said he enjoyed his career at Eastside and looks forward to hopefully playing at Bethune.

"It sort of hurt knowing this was my last high school game, but I love these boys and we went out with a bang," Jenkins said.

Michael Linton, a 6-foot-3 242-pound offensive and defensive lineman, echoed the sentiments of his teammates.

"It feels good to go out with a bang in our last game with me and the boys," said Linton, who has received interest from Methodist University in Fayetteville, N.C. "We did it. We fought hard to the end and this is just an amazing feeling."

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