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Rams end 10-game losing streak on Senior Night

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By Curtis Michaud
Twitter – @CurtisMichaud1

On Friday night at Citizens Field in Gainesville, the Eastside Rams varsity football team was able to come up with its first win of the season on Senior Night.

“They been through a lot and they deserve it,” said second year Rams’ head coach Alex Deleon.

The Rams defeated the Palatka Panthers at home, 27-8, in a non-district matchup of programs desperately needing a win as the season nears its end.

Both teams entered this game with losing streaks.

Eastside (1-7) snapped a 10-game losing skid which dates back to last season, while Palatka (1-6), which was coming off a blowout defeat versus North Marion, hoped to break their four-game losing streak.

“I’m just mostly happy for our guys because they have been working hard for us,” said Deleon.

The game started with both teams scoring on their first possession.

EHS received the ball the first and marched straight down the field behind junior running back Darian Smith-Williams.

Smith-Williams, who had three rushing touchdowns on the night, showed some hard running with his first scamper that helped EHS take a 6-0 lead.

Head coach Patrick Turner and the Panthers offense returned the favor with a quick score of their own.

Junior quarterback Jamarrie McKinnon converted on a 4th and long to senior Jamal Bryant for a touchdown pass to tie the game at 6.

PHS, being aggressive early, went for the two-point conversion as McKinnon called his own number and put the Panthers up 8-6 with 43 seconds left in the first.

It was setting up to be high scoring affair. However, penalties and turnovers halted drives offensively, and Palatka wasn’t able to hang with EHS on the scoreboard.

“Even in our scoring drive, we had to overcame mistakes and penalties,” Turner continued. “We shot ourselves in foot all night long, hats off to them they played mistake free football.”

Deleon and the Rams knew they had to find a spark to regain momentum. Fortunately, that came as halftime was approaching at the end of the second quarter.

With 26 seconds left until half junior quarterback Holden Johnson surveyed the field and found senior Andre Bradford for the score in the red zone to put EHS up 13-8.

“That definitely gave them the momentum,” said Turner. “They came out in the second half excited, probably a position they haven’t been in all year long.”

After a short kickoff return by the Panthers to start the third, offense had the opportunity to put themselves in scoring position with a nice run by McKinnon. However, a long snap over the head of McKinnon put the Panthers behind the chains forcing a punt.

The Rams continued their focus in the ground game marching down towards Panthers’ territory once more.

With the help of the offensive line guiding Smith-Williams to his second short yardage touchdown, they extended their lead to double digits, 20-8, with 7:47 left in the third quarter.

Palatka continued to struggle offensively as the rush started to get to McKinnon heading into to the fourth quarter.

“We might be the best practice team in America right now,” Turner continued. “We just do not execute right now on Friday nights when it matters.”

As the game was seemingly out of reach for Palatka to cultivate any sort of comeback late, EHS wanted to end the night on a high note.

With 3:48 left in the ball game, Smith-Williams completed the hat trick with his third rushing touchdown.

He credited his big touchdown performance on the ground towards his offensive line.

“My O-line helped me, that’s the only way I got there,” Smith-Williams said. “They were pushing me in the end zone and everything.”

Heading to into next week’s matchup with Santa Fe (Alachua), Smith-Williams said getting a win this week will definitely boost the team’s confidence.

“We weren’t happy losing,” Williams continued. “You see today everybody is leaving here with a smile on their face.”

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