Massive Changes to Eastside Football Promise Growth and Improvement; Results Immediately Show in Thrashing of PK Yonge


Editor’s Note: This article was written before the tragic and unexpected death of senior player Dae Dae White. Although I considered replacing his name with another player’s, I thought it most fitting to keep what I had written about him to honor and immortalize the impact he would have undoubtedly had on the team this year, both as a person and a player. Rest In Peace #55 Dae Dae White.


5 and 25. To the average Eastside student, these two numbers may not mean much of anything. But to Holden Johnson, Dae Dae White, and other veteran players of the varsity football team, their atrocious combined record over the last three seasons is an unchangeable reminder of their past shortcomings, and will be used as fuel in this season’s attempts to permanently change the nature of Eastside’s football program. Fortunately, this year is already shaping up to be something historic. 

At the end of last weekend’s dominant 27-point win against PK Yonge, the Rams found themselves in a very unfamiliar position: starting the season with a win. In fact, the last time Eastside won their season opener (August 31st, 2012), most of our current players were just entering 1st grade. This crucial first win, paired with a pre-season victory against a formidable Chiefland team (who lost in the semi-finals of last year’s 1A state tournament), are clear indicators of the improvements made to this program in the offseason. Senior linebacker Charlie Sawyer had this to say about the changes being made: “The new coaching staff has brought a lot to the table this year. Most of them played football at the upper levels so they have vast amounts of football knowledge that they are eager to impart on the team.” 

After last year’s former head coach Alexander Deleon resigned following a string of losing seasons, the higher-ups at Eastside made a flurry of quality signings to the coaching staff. Undoubtedly the most notable of these additions was head coach Harold “Gator” Hoskins. As a former NFL player and standout member of Eastside’s football team (class of 2010), Hoskins knows what it takes to achieve success; in an interview with the Gainesville Sun, he said this: “My number one priority is turning this program around by instilling a winning culture in these players on the field, in the classroom and in the community.” Anyone who attends an Eastside football game or practice sees that the head coach is true to his word; he is constantly on the move, animatedly giving advice to players and making small adjustments to the team. This level of effort is mirrored in another important acquisition, with defensive back coach Tim Shankle. Shankle’s list of credentials is extensive, having played and excelled at a Division I level in college, in addition to starting his own athletic training program, where he has trained prominent players like Kansas City Chiefs WR Josh Gordon. 

In the first game of the season, viewers got a sneak peek of certain aspects to look forward to this year. Some of the positives in the resounding victory on Saturday included #5 Micah Hudson’s ability to make impactful plays on both sides of the ball, #22 Chris Bishop relentlessly pushing the ball forward on runs, and #55 Dae Dae White’s deliciously violent pancakes on unsuspecting opposition players. By far the most exciting thing, though, was the electric connection between quarterback Holden Johnson (#12) and junior wide receiver Antonio Hubbert (#3). Receiving 2 of Johnson’s 3 passing touchdowns and racking up multiple long receptions, Hubbert seemed to be unstoppable on Saturday; each play he could be seen giving the opposing defense issues, using his agile and quick build to constantly blow by PK’s secondary. “Antonio is a huge asset to this team and that can be seen through his playmaking ability, as well as the leadership he is beginning to develop this year,” says Johnson, who was equally as impressive, picking Hubbert out at every opportunity. Johnson finished the day throwing 7/9 for 140 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. There is no doubt that this connection will be thrilling to watch for the remainder of this season. 

Although the program is definitely headed in a positive direction, it is important to understand that this is just the first season in this new era of Eastside football; a wise man once said to “strive for progress, not perfection”. This year, as a new leaf is turned in program history, the inevitable progress that they make will be appreciated at every opportunity, and supporters must take comfort knowing that this team will only get better with time.


Finally, as this new season progresses, it is vital that Eastside students and supporters alike attend games and show support to match the effort being put into the program by the players and staff this year. Notable opponents at Citizens Field this year include Buchholz on September 9th, Santa Fe on October 28th, and GHS on November 4th, which is the final game of the regular season.