Eastside boys’ soccer ‘different’ in 2019-20

By Declan Walsh
Twitter – @dawalsh_UF

GAINESVILLE – Change is in the air at Eastside High School, as the Rams boys’ soccer team enter the season as a markedly different squad than the 13-win regional semifinalists of last year.

First-year coach Bryan Hantak takes over a team which lost a sizable senior class. The most notable of these departures would be Jesse Landis, who tallied 15 goals and was one of five Eastside seniors to receive all-area nominations.

However, Coach Hantak noted his experience coaching in the soccer hotbeds of St. Louis and Dallas, and said that he is excited to take the reins of this impressionable squad.

“Trying to implement your system can be a lot easier with a younger squad,” said Hantak. “I watched the tapes from last year and we played a lot of individual soccer. I want to see us play a more team oriented style and get a lot of numbers forward.”

Despite the lack of varsity experience on the squad, there were a number of players that Coach Hantak spoke highly of.

Nio Suzuki returns after a four goal campaign and an all area selection. Suzuki is primed to be the Rams’ best returning attacker after losing Landis and brother Issey Suzuki to graduation.

Hantak also referened J.J. Romaraog, who along with David Ekakitie and Sam Disabb, will comprise a small senior class tasked with leading this inexperienced squad.

Jeremy Jacobs and emerging freshman Isaac Gugel are a pair of really talented underclassmen to watch as Coach Hantak feels they can make a huge difference this season.

Eastside will likely see a position battle between the sticks as well, as the Rams boast three strong keepers that are ready to compete at a high level.

Expectations are difficult to gauge coming into the year.

Eastside faces the daunting task of moving into Class 4A-District 9 with just a handful of returning starters. However, it is hard to bet against one of the most consistent programs in the region, and Coach Hantak returns more than enough talent to lead a very competitive outfit this season.

The Rams opened the season with a 2-2 tie against Class 6A power Fleming Island (Orange Park) on Monday. Freshman forward Charlie Sawyer had a goal, and Dissab scored on a 45-yard free kick for Eastside (0-0-1).

Goalkeeper Matthew Gillis made 12 saves for the Rams, who will travel to North Marion (Citra) on Thursday.