Rams gear up for new season

Published: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 3:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 20, 2014 at 3:36 p.m.

The Eastside High School sports program will try to maintain or improve upon the success it had last year beginning with the football program and its preseason classic home game that will literally be played on the Rams home field.



* What: Eastside High School vs. Palatka High School in Preseason Classic

* When: 7 p.m. Friday

* Where: Eastside High School, 1201 SE 45th Terrace

* Tickets: $6, parking $3

* Information: 352-955-6704

All home games are played at Citizens Field. An asterisk denotes district games.

* Aug. 29: 7:30 p.m. vs. Buchholz High School

* Sept. 5: 7:30 p.m. vs. Gainesville High School

* Sept. 11: 7:30 p.m. vs. Ocala Trinity Catholic

* Sept. 18: 7:30 p.m. vs. Belleview High School*

* Sept. 26: 7:30 p.m. @ North Marion High School*

* Oct. 3: 7:30 p.m. @ Suwannee High School*

* Oct. 10: Bye week.

* Oct. 17: 7:30 p.m. @ Crystal River High School*

* Oct. 23: 7:30 p.m. vs. Dunnellon High School*

* Oct. 30: 7:30 p.m. vs. Santa Fe High School*

* Nov. 7: 7:30 p.m. @ Bradford High School

The Rams will, for the first time in school history, host an on-campus game when they meet the Palatka Panthers in a preseason game at 7 p.m. Friday at the school at 1201 SE 45th Terrace.

"This will be the first time in 43 years that a varsity football game has been played at Eastside," said coach Jeff Parker, who is entering his fourth year at the helm of the Eastside football program. "(Principal Jeff) Charbonnet has went all over the city to gather all of the benches he could and will have them all trucked in here, so we will find out just how many fans we will be able to seat."

For the second straight year, the Rams will open the season with games at Citizens Field against city rivals Buchholz High School at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 29 and Gainesville High School at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 5. Parker said it will be impossible to play those games on campus because of the demand for tickets to those games, but he said the school would love to play other games on campus in the future. Parker said playing home games on campus gives schools that do so a tremendous advantage.

"It is something for a team to have to pull into those gates out there and pull in this neighborhood and get off the bus and say. ‘We're playing Eastside High School,' " Parker said. "That will be something that will be really fun."

All Eastside regular season home games will be played at Citizens Field and all games will begin at 7:30 p.m.

After the games against Buchholz and GHS, the Rams will host perennial powerhouse Ocala Trinity Catholic on Sept. 11, before they open their District 5-5A schedule on Sept. 18 at home against Belleview. Eastside will then get into the meat of its district schedule with games on the road Sept. 26 against North Marion and Oct. 3 against Suwannee.

The Rams will then have a bye week before resuming district play on the road on Oct. 17 at Crystal River, before returning home to play district home games on Oct. 23 against Dunnellon and Santa Fe on Oct. 30.

The Rams will close out their regular season on the road at Bradford.

The Rams are looking to improve on their 5-5 record from last season, which included a 4-2 district record that featured a 13-10 win over district powerhouse North Marion.

Parker said the district is arguably the toughest in North Central Florida. However, he also said the Rams have the talent to compete for the district championship. He said senior Landon Rogers will start at quarterback, with senior Malachi Lofland serving as his backup. He said Lofland will touch the ball a lot this season because he is a very explosive offensive player.

Parker said senior lineman Greg Turnage will join Lofland, Rogers and Simmons as team captains. He said Turnage, who is getting looks from several Ivy League colleges, is one of the best linemen he has ever coached.

Parker said the offense will definitely be the strength of the team and the team can have a lot of success if the young talent on defense "figure things out" by the time district play starts.

"When you play a tough schedule early in the season like we do, the players learn how to handle adversity, and hopefully, that will pay off for us later in the season," Parker said.

Boys basketball

Fresh off a trip to the Class 5A final four in Lakeland for the first time since winning the 5A state championship in 2006, the Rams will be adding senior Ed Porter to a squad that will return most of its players from last year.

The first day of practice will be Oct. 27.

Coach Pop Williams said Porter transferred to Eastside after playing last year for The Villages High School in Lake County. Porter, a 6-foot-8 forward, started his high school career at Hawthorne and is a welcomed addition to the Eastside team, who will return sophomore shooting guard Joseph McCray (6-foot-3), senior guards Thomas Lundy (6-foot-2), Darrius Norman (6-foot-1) and Marquez Ross (5-foot-10), along with senior center Mike Nobles, a 6-foot-7 rebounding machine, and junior Khalil Banton, a speedy 5-foot-6 point guard.

"Whether or not we can have the success we had last year will depend on how hard the guys are willing to work," said Williams, who will be entering his 19th season as the coach of the Rams.

Girls basketball

Coach Lance Radford will be entering his third season as coach of the Lady Rams basketball team with the challenge of trying to repeat as District 5-5A champions.

The first day of practice will be Oct. 27.

Radford led the Lady Rams to first-round victories in the state playoffs during his first two seasons and will be relying on a group of experienced seniors to take the team further this year.

"We will be led by senior guard A'nikeyawna (KeeKee) Barber and senior center Shadazya Bullock," said Radford, who coached the Lady Rams to a 13-11 overall record last season. They were undefeated in district play.

Radford said the team will add senior Ariasia Walker, a shooting guard who sat out last season, to the roster this year.

"She is a good outside shooter and that is something we sorely missed last season," Radford said.

Radford said the team will also rely heavily on the experience of sophomore Naieshea Baker, junior N'mandria Reynolds and senior Errel James.

He also said sophomore Sheddy Hardy will be a great addition to the team, and added that she will have to fill the void left by the graduation of Jasmine Thomas, the point guard and leader of the team last year.

"She will definitely have big shoes to fill," Radford said.

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