Slept on Eastside

By Trey Johnson | April 7, 2023

This was not supposed to happen. Eastside High School football was an afterthought in Gainesville, essentially a guaranteed win for opponents. That was until the program shook things up. After accumulating a record of 5-25 over the previous three seasons, the Rams hired Eastside alum Harold “Gator” Hoskins as the new head coach.

“I got tired of Eastside looking bad,” Hoskins said.

Hoskins turned a successful high school career into a scholarship to Marshall University in West Virginia. He then made a name for himself with over 1,300 receiving yards and 28 touchdowns. He signed with the Miami Dolphins in 2014, but didn’t have the pro career he had hoped for.

Nearly a decade later, his latest challenge brought him back to where it all started.

The last time Eastside was relevant, Anthony Richardson, the future Florida Gator and now NFL hopeful, was the quarterback. In fact, his high school highlights are often shown during Eastside games. But the school is bigger than Richardson. It’s a family, or as the community says, “a Ramily.”

The 2022 season was about more than football games. Hoskins changed the culture. Through the ups and downs of life, he taught and inspired not just his players but the community. By bringing back some of his former teammates and Eastside alums, he fostered an environment for growth. Yet, the new staff didn’t know what to expect. They knew the student-athletes were talented – but were unsure of how far they could take it in year one.

Hoskins and company laid a firm foundation as the Rams would shock north central Florida. With new expectations, the team will have to try and follow up their best season since 2018. But for now, enjoy this look back at what you probably missed – when you “Slept On Eastside.”

Eastside offensive coordinator Willie Jackson Jr. and assistant coach Cordera Ferguson discuss the importance of the team’s game against North Marion. (0:59)
Head coach Harold Hoskins keeps it real with the team by explaining what it truly means to love the game of football. (4:01)
Hoskins encourages his team to stay focused at practice as complacency begins to creep in before the game against Newberry. (0:46)
Wide receivers coach Rodney Mills reflects on his time at Eastside and explains the impact of making the playoffs. (0:59)
The starting offensive line remembers their fallen teammate Dabien “DaeDae” White. (2:12)
Hoskins discusses what’s next for Eastside and how they must stay hungry to prove their haters wrong. (1:30)

Media appearances

Watch above: Trey Johnson joined Steve Russell on WRUF’s “Sport Scene” on April 6.

Listen above: Trey Johnson joined Jake Reyes on WUFT’s “The Point Podcast” on April 7.

Watch above: Trey Johnson joined WUFT-TV’s “First at Five” on April 7.