When East Bay coach Frank LaRosa surveyed his team on the ride home from last week’s tiebreaker wins over Plant City and Strawberry Crest, he saw a satisfied group of completely drained faces.
“It’d be like going on a mission and then coming back, knowing you accomplished your task and being exhausted,” LaRosa said.
But the mission was complete: The Indians (7-3) were district champions for the first time in 40 years.
So last week, they relaxed.
The Class 7A, District 7 champs didn’t have a bye week during the season. They had been going hard for 11 weeks in a row, including a kickoff classic, and grinding since twice-a-week chalk talk sessions in the winter.
Their dream of a first playoff appearance since 2005 — LaRosa’s first year as an assistant — started to seem close after a 19-13 win over Plant City in Week 6. The student body jumped on board the next week with a 13-12 homecoming victory over Bloomingdale, and a bus load of them traveled in red shirts to see their Indians secure the first home playoff game in school history.
“It’s unreal,” quarterback Chris Carpentier said. “We’re gonna see that banner 50 years from now when we come back to our 50-year reunion, and it’s still gonna be up there. We made it happen.”
East Bay took a day off last week before regrouping to figure out how to make more history Friday against Gaither (5-5). An Indians team that survived this season thanks to close, gritty wins is 0-6 all time in the playoffs, including three-point losses to King and Chamberlain.
“That’s what we’re preparing for,” LaRosa said. “To change all that.”