GIBSONTON — The folks in East Bay's football program — from the coaches to the players to the faculty and the parents — are about as tight as a group can be.
It's been that way for a long time, dating to the years under former head coach Brian Thornton and the past eight with head coach Frank LaRosa, who, by the way, coached as an assistant for six years under Thornton.
"As long as I've been here, it's been about family," LaRosa said. "We take care of each other."
And that's the main reason — despite playing in a tough district and not having a ton of Division I-A talent — that East Bay has racked up winning records the past three years and often given favored opponents a difficult time.
This year is another shining example as the Indians (3-1, 0-1) gear up to scramble the Class 7A, District 9 standings on Friday against heavily favored Plant City (4-0, 1-0).
"We will have to play very well and we will have to have some things go our way to have a chance," LaRosa said. "But we definitely have that chance."
Some of the keys include quarterback/safety Joaquin Isidro, defensive back/running back Tre Everett, defensive lineman/tight end Jontrell Oliver, running back/defensive back Javon Stephens and defensive linemen/offensive linemen Jaden Lopez and Tobi Onalaja.
Other obvious keys: all of the aforementioned must not suffer injuries or get too tired while playing both ways.
"We do ask a lot of our main guys because we have to go with that best 11 mentality," LaRosa said. "But so far they've been able to step up and get it done."
Besides a three-turnover 10-7 overtime loss last Friday at Durant (another district foe), the Indians have been pretty tough and efficient indeed.
The first three weeks of the season, in fact, East Bay dominated, winning each time by more than two scores, averaging 27 points and more than 300 rushing yards a game, while giving up fewer than 200 yards a game on defense.
Overall, Everett and Isidro have led the way, racking up 359 and 293 total rushing yards, respectively, with Everett averaging almost 12 yards a carry.
And they've done it with Isidro playing quarterback for the first time while working in a completely new offensive scheme.
Before this season, East Bay had always run an option-based offense, mainly in a wishbone attack.
LaRosa, however, looked at his personnel this year and decided to switch it up, running a shotgun-set offense similar to the one run by Auburn, using little to no reads.
"So far it's worked pretty well," LaRosa said. "All we had to do was ask these kids to do it and they did it.
"That's the kind of kids and understanding we have here. It's all about team. It's all about family."