Eastside football coach Harold “Gator” Hoskins was given his nickname by his father who saw early on that the younger Hoskins would be a “go-getter.”
Hoskins, in his first year as head football coach of the Rams, proved his father to be prophetic, leading his alma mater to go get its first district championship in 10 years when the Rams (6-2, 3-1) beat Santa Fe 28-7 Friday night at Citizens Field.
Santa Fe dropped to 1-8 on the season.
After the game, Hoskins told his players they still have some unfinished regular-season business as they play crosstown rival Gainesville Friday at 7 pm at Citizens Field.
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“We have another box to check off,” Hoskins said.
Here are some takeaways from this past Friday night’s game:
Player who died in September serves as inspiration on Senior Night
It was Senior Night for the Rams, and the Eastside players were able to manage their emotions as Dabien “DaeDae” White’s mother was recognized in his honor during a pregame ceremony recognizing those seniors.
White, whose jersey number was 55, was a senior lineman on the team until his death on Sept. 4.
“Fifty-five was heavy on our hearts tonight, and these guys wanted to get this done (win district) for him,” Hoskins said. “We got emotional when we saw his mother on the field before the game, but regained our composure and took care of our business.”
And the Rams did just that with a swarming and suffocating defense that put pressure on the Raiders offense throughout the game, and a punishing performance by the Rams offensive line that pushed the Raiders around.
“Let’s give it up for the offensive line,” Hoskins said during his post-game remarks to the team.
Rams’ success built on hard work and pride in program
Instilling pride in the players for having the opportunity to wear the orange and green Eastside uniform came easy to Hoskins, a member of Eastside’s Class of 2010. He starred at quarterback and safety under longtime head coach Kent Johnson.
Hoskins attributes the Rams’ success this year to his players buying into the coaching staff’s mantra that putting in hard work pays off in the long run. He told the players that they are district champions because they put in the work in the off-season in the weight room and honing their skills to be the best they can be.
He also told his players that they must continue to work hard and prepare for the state playoffs like they prepared for the regular season.
Winning the district title after such a long drought, plus the heartache this season with the death of a teammate and overall futility in the program for a decade, senior quarterback Holden Johnson was almost at a loss for words after the game.
“It feels very surreal,” Johnson said as he left the field. “We always thought this was possible, but I’m just overwhelmed that we made it become reality. The hard work is paying off for us.”