By: J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola
It ever a team had an excuse for an off-performance; it would have been Harmony on Friday night against Tohopekaliga.
Not only were the Longhorns coming off Tuesday’s heart-wrenching 9-7 loss to Melbourne that most likely cost them a chance to win districts but they only had two days to get ready to face record-setting freshman quarterback Sabby Meassick and his high-scoring Tiger offense that came into the contest averaging more than 40 points a game.
But despite the circumstances, Coach Don Simon’s football team got a four-touchdown, 285-yard rushing performance from Tyler Emans and watched his defense force eight turnovers as the Longhorns recorded a 40-7 win over the Tigers.
“I think this team showed a ton of character tonight, I am so incredibly proud of how they played. Everyone was upset with the Melbourne loss, but I told them they had to put it behind them and get ready to play in two days,” Simon said. “We know the district title is most likely out of reach but we are 5-3 now and have two more opponents left and a chance to get to seven wins. With the schedule we played, a 7-3 record could get us in the playoffs.”
On Friday, it did not take long for the Longhorn defense and Emans to make a statement. On the first play of the game, Meassick completed a 12-yard pass to Julian Nasco, but the defense forced a fumble on the play and Emans broke loose on a 27-yard touchdown run on the next play to give the Longhorns a 7-0 lead.
Meassick would then lead Toho on a 12-play, 51-yard drive only to see Harmony knock the ball loose from running back Churandy Duval and recover on the Harmony 9-yard line. A possession later, Nathan Butler intercepted Meassick and returned it to 26. Emans again needed just one play to put the ball in the end zone and make it a 14-0 game. The score remained the same until midway through the second quarter when Alex Tuyo booted a career-long 49-yard field goal to make it 17-0.
Toho finally would get on the board when Nick Rawls, who finished the game with 16 catches for 183 yards, slipped behind the Harmony secondary and caught a Meassick bomb for a 74-yard touchdown to narrow the gap to 17-7. On Harmony’s next possession, Tuyo would up the lead to 20-7 at the half as he hit his second field goal of the game.
The Longhorns, who won the toss and elected to defer, would put the game away on the first play of the second half. After Harmony recovered a squib kick at its own 27, Emans took a handoff, broke two tackles at the line then raced past the secondary for a 74-yard touchdown run and a 27-7 Harmony advantage.
Emans would tack on another touchdown and Jeremy Hilliard would score from nine yards out in the final minutes to complete the scoring.
Meassick finished the game 29 for 53 for 280 yards but five interceptions—part of eight turnovers committed by the Tigers on the night.
“He (Meassick) has a lot of talent and Toho’s offense has so many moving parts, it would be hard to get ready to defend them if you had a normal week to do it,” Simon said. “The fact that we only had two days to get ready and still had five interceptions and allowed just seven points is a real credit to our defense.”
The win dropped Tohopekaliga to 5-2 on the season. They will travel to Osceola next Friday for a showdown for the 4S, District 11 championship. After a 2-3 start, the Kowboys have been hot lately in winning three straight and out-scoring their last three opponents 131-5 – including Friday’s 33-6 dismantling of Daytona Beach-Mainland, who came into the game ranked number one in the state Class 3 Suburban.
Harmony has two games remaining, including a Friday home contest with Heritage (3-5), before completing their regular season with their traditional rival St. Cloud (5-3).
H: Tyler Emans 27 run (Alex Tuyo kick); 7-0
H: Emans 26 run (Tuyo kick); 14-0
H: Tuyo 46 FG; 17-0
T: Nick Rawls 74 pass from Sabby Meassick (Tylor Domres kick); 17-7
H: Tuyo 25 FG; 20-7
H: Emans 73 run (Tuyo kick); 27-7
H: Emans 6 run (Kick Failed); 33-7
H: Jeremy Hilliard 9 run (Tuyo kick); 40-7