For the first time in 10 years, the Eastside Rams football team are district champions.
The Rams won the 2S-District 7 title outright after a 28-7 win on Senior Night against district foe Santa Fe (Alachua), giving former Ram player turned head coach Harold “Gator” Hoskins a district title in his first season with the team.
“I’m so happy for these kids, man, they put it all together,” Hoskins said. “Especially those guys who have been here three years. Those seniors who’ve been down, they got a chance to be champions and it’ll never be taken from them.”
Eastside honored nearly two dozen seniors on Friday night, including lineman Dabien “Dae Dae” White, who passed away on Sept. 4 due to undisclosed causes.
“We did this one for Dae Dae tonight. RIP 55,” Hoskins said.
Eastside senior quarterback Holden Johnson started the scoring off with a 62-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Antonio Hubbert with 3:22 left in the first quarter.
A four-year starter with the program, Johnson described the feeling of winning a district title as “surreal.”
“Doing it for the seniors, all these guys that have been here,” Johnson said. “I mean, I went 5-25 in my first three years at Eastside. Just to completely turn the tides, turn things around, is super impressive. I’m super proud of this team and the coaches and everything we’ve been able to accomplish.”
Johnson, who has thrown for a career-high 13 touchdowns with a career-low three interceptions this season, was honored in the post-game huddle by Hoskins for his leadership.
“It made me a little emotional,” Johnson said. “This journey has totally had some crazy ups and downs. Like I said, it just feels surreal. We’ve all been dreaming of this. We’ve tried to speak it into existence, but to actually accomplish it feels amazing.”
Despite being an offense known for its passing, it was the Ram rushing attack, led by Chris Bishop, that led them to victory. Bishop was named the Sonic Drive-In Player of the Game with his two-touchdown performance.
“I really just came out to play for the team,” Bishop said. “We ain’t won district in I don’t know how long. I really just played for Dae Dae tonight. That’s all I played for.”
Bishop scored his first touchdown of the night on a 2-yard run with 5:04 left in the first half to put the score at 13-0.
After the two teams traded interceptions late in the first half, Santa Fe would have their best opportunity to score in the first half, but with one second left in the half, Raider quarterback Erik Hockman’s pass to KJ Johnson in the endzone would be broken up.
Another Chris Bishop touchdown run, this time an 8-yarder with 7:26 left in the third quarter, would give Eastside a three-score lead.
However, Santa Fe would not go away quietly as Amarion Cason caught a 36-yard touchdown pass off a trick play with 4:39 to go in the game.
Senior running back Micah Hudson would seal the victory and the district title with a 3-yard touchdown run and a 2-point conversion to put the score at 28-7 with 2:34 left in the game.
The Rams conclude the regular season next week against cross-town rival Gainesville (0-9), while Santa Fe looks to end their season with a win at home against Fort White (5-4)
Tuesday, Oct. 25
Williston 48, Hamilton County 0
Thursday, Oct. 27
Buchholz 49, Fleming Island (Orange Park) 35
Newberry 30, Dixie County (Cross City) 0
Friday, Oct. 28
Bradford (Starke) 35, Palatka 14
Eastside 28, Santa Fe 7
Wewahitchka 26, Trenton 12
Central Florida Christian Academy 50, Oak Hall 6
Chiefland 41, Fort White 14
Columbia (Lake City) 45, Ridgeview (Orange Park) 0
Tacoi Creek (St. Augustine) 35, Keystone Heights 0
Suwannee (Live Oak) 22, Wakulla (Crawfordville) 14
Trinity Catholic 51, P.K. Yonge 7
Bronson 28, St. Francis Catholic 6
OFF – Bell, Branford, Gainesville, Union County (Lake Butler), Hawthorne