Wakulla Routs Eastside 3-0 In Regional Quarterfinals To End Playoff Dreams


After a nearly three-hour-long bus ride, the Eastside Rams’ boys soccer team touched down in Crawfordville, Florida, to take on the Wakulla War Eagles in the regional quarterfinals of the state tournament. The Rams (8-6-4) entered the game ranked eighth out of eight teams in the region, while the War Eagles (14-5-3) were the top seed in the bracket. 

The Ram’s game plan all season has been simple and clear: defend like their lives depend on it, and put in a goal when the opportunity presents itself. Heading into Wednesday’s game it was no different, as head coach Greg Sawyer instructed his players to stay patient and compact on the defensive end and look to score off of dangerous throw-ins and set pieces.

Eastside proceeded to do the exact opposite, allowing two quick goals in the first 15 minutes of the game. Both goals came from the left side, where Wakulla winger Braeden Paul would cause the Rams trouble all night. He would end the night with one goal and two assists. 

These two goals seemed to shock the team back to their senses, resulting in a second quarter that saw multiple chances for Eastside to get one back as the team shifted to a more offensive playing style. Though down two goals, the Rams headed into halftime with hope, as they saw that they were able to pose a threat to their opponents. 

Unfortunately, this hope is about the closest Eastside would get for the rest of the game. Aside from a few crosses here and there, and one missed breakaway from sophomore striker Eshan Kamal, the second half was primarily a deadlock in the middle of the field. The War Eagles would net one more in the fourth quarter after Eastside threw the kitchen sink at Wakulla in a last-gasp scoring attempt in the dying minutes of the game.  

A Peculiarly Wonderful Year

While this year’s Eastside boys soccer team was many things, inherently talented was not one of them. The best teams in the state are largely filled with seniors and juniors who play the game at a club level. Contrastingly, Eastside’s team this year had just three (3) active club players; the rest of the squad was a young amalgamation of band members, football players, runners, and first-timers alike. To put that number into perspective, last year’s squad, which made it just a game further at regionals, had 18 club players. Eighteen. Taking all this into consideration, it was unsurprising that this season’s team had to take a more unconventional route in finding success. 

The Rams started off the season injury-ridden, lost, and confused, and after the first six games, the team found themselves with just one win and four goals scored. During this time period, head coach Greg Sawyer realized that, before being able to hone the team’s tactical play, he had to work on the fundamentals. He spent hours each day working with the team on the basics of passing, defending, and shooting, putting stressed focus on progress in lieu of results. The team’s consistent work slowly began to materialize into a team that valued effort, selflessness, and resilient defense. This newfound team identity, paired with the return of seniors Charles Sawyer and Donovan Pettiford, resulted in a turnaround for the Rams, who, in the new year, suffered just one loss in eight games.

The team entered districts ranked second and was matched up with regular season rivals Santa Fe Raiders, who they beat in a penalty shootout after ending the game tied 1-1. The next game was district finals, where the Rams triumphed over Suwannee 2-0; this victory gave Coach Sawyer his third district championship in three years, and gave seniors Andres Stuve, Jakob Gorham, and Charles Sawyer their fourth in four.

The gift of a district championship this season was special to the entire team, and frankly something that few expected heading into the season. Although their season is over, there is no doubt that these last couple months will be remembered by the team as some of the most enjoyable times of their high school lives.