Last year when Alex Deleon took over as the head coach of the Eastside football team, many of the Rams’ players had to meet him for the first time over Zoom.
“Last year, I met Coach Deleon over Zoom and that just wasn’t a good way to meet your head coach,” Rams quarterback Holden Johnson said.
There was no spring football in 2020, but heading into 2021, Johnson said the Rams have bonded as a team thanks to spring ball and summer workouts.
“Getting to know everyone, connecting, bonding, it’s going to make us better as a team,” Johnson said. “We’ve bonded as a team.”
DeLeon said there were some hurdles last spring, but things are already different this year.
“I think that this year, being the fact that there’s a year under my belt, the players know who I am, and they know what my expectations are, I think it’s going to be a lot different,” he said.
The offense will certainly benefit with the return of its signal caller.
Johnson, a junior, is back under center after gaining some valuable experience as a sophomore.
“It will definitely help me a lot,” he said. “Game time experience will always help you. And the hours in the weight room, getting bigger, stronger, and getting faster, it all adds up and will help me a lot.”
Senior Andre Bradford, who will play defensive back and wide receiver, is ready to help lead the Rams offensively and defensively.
“I’m excited about Andre Bradford,” DeLeon said. “He’s going to be a leader on both sides of the ball.”
Bradford led the team last year with 26 catches for 334 yards.
“We’ve got to be committed, consistent, relentless, and physical so that when we step on the field, we all have the same mindset that we had all spring so that we can be successful,” he said.
DeLeon was also high on newcomer Mike Williams, a senior transfer from P.K. Yonge.
Eastside will host P.K. Yonge in its season opener on Friday, Aug. 27. The game will be broadcast on 106.9 FM “I am Country” beginning at 6:30 p.m.
Tyler Brooks will be back to anchor the defensive line. He will also play guard and is looking forward to his role as a senior leader.
“We’re getting bigger, stronger, and faster,” Brooks said. “I’m learning the fundamentals and getting all of the stuff in that we need to know about the offensive line and what we should expect from the defensive line. On defense, we try to make big plays or help our teammates make big plays. We just stay together and work, and get better together.”
With just one-win last year, Eastside is still in its infancy of rebuilding the program.
“Changing the culture is what we are focused on right now,” Johnson said. “The whole team sticking together, through thick and thin, and throughout the whole season, would be an improvement in our eyes.”
The Rams will compete in Class 5A-District 4 this season. They’ve dropped Ridgeview (Orange Park) and Orange Park, but they’ve added North Marion (Citra) and Palatka.
In order for this to be a good year for Eastside, DeLeon said there is one thing that has to happen for his football team.
“Be consistent,” he said. “Just be consistent in whatever we do. That’s really just been the main goal for the spring, and the main goal for the summer has been to be committed and be consistent.”
2021 Eastside Football Schedule
Friday, Aug. 27 – vs. P.K. Yonge (Gainesville), 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 3 – at Middleburg, 7 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 10 – at Buchholz (Gainesville), 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Sept. 17 – at Menendez (St. Augustine), 7 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 30 – vs. North Marion (Citra), 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 8 – at Clay (Green Cove Springs), 7 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 14 – vs. Newberry, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 22 – vs. Palatka, 7 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 29 – at Santa Fe (Alachua), 7 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 5 – vs. Gainesville, 7 p.m.