By:  J. Daniel Pearson

Playing without the services of a dozen regulars, the Osceola Kowboys were no match for defending 4S State Champion Lakeland on Friday night – dropping a 26-0 decision to the Dreadnaughts at Markus Paul Stadium.

Osceola was hoping to get an offensive spark this week with the return of UCF commit and all-state running back Taevion Swint, who missed the first three games of the season with a knee injury.  Although the junior practiced most of the week, he missed the game after a death in the family.  Things got worse for the offense when head coach Eric Pinellas learned that back-up Jeffery Sinophant, who injured a shoulder last week, was most likely going to miss the rest of the season with that injury.

RB Zion Mathews also missed the game as the Kowboys offense faltered and produced just 100 yards of total offense for the game.   Osceola produced just two scoring chances in the game.  In the second quarter, Notorious Reynolds ripped off a 42-yard run down to the Lakeland 20, but the Kowboys fumbled the ball away on the next play.

Trailing 26-0 at the half, the Kowboys had a chance to score in the third quarter when a snap sailed over kicker Calum Muldoon’s head and Jalen Bell recovered on the Lakeland 18-yard line.  But on Osceola’s next play from scrimmage, the Kowboys fumbled the ball away to Lakeland to end the threat.

Lakeland, 2-2, would do all its damage in the first half.  Osceola would stop a drive by forcing and recovering a fumble on its own one yard line – but QB Camren West had to knock down a high snap on the very next play.  Although he recovered, he was tackled in the end zone for a safety and a 2-0 Lakeland lead.

The Dreadnaughts would take advantage of ideal field position and missed tackles as Markel Johnson scored a rushing touchdown and Jamar Taylor hauled in an 18-scoring pass.  Muldoon would boot a 24-yard field goal and Robert Anderson would return a fumble 80 yards for a touchdown as Lakeland built a 26-0 lead at the half.

There was some danger that if Lakeland posted two more scores the game would go to the “Mercy Rule Running Clock” – something that had never happened to Osceola in the school’s history since the rule was imposed more than a decade ago.

But it was never a factor, as Osceola’s defense posted five second half stops and did not allow a point.  “It was something we were aware of at halftime,” Kowboys coach Eric Pinellas said.  “At halftime, I told them there was nothing I could say or do, to prevent it from happening.  I told them they had to reach deep down inside, play with Kowboy pride and keep it from happening.  For the most part, I was proud of the way our defense played in the second half.”

Jalen Bell (1 QS, 3 TFL, FR) and Daniel Morales (3 QS) had big nights for the Kowboys defense.

Still, with Osceola missing so many players on both offense and defense, they were no match for Lakeland, who tallied close to 300 yards of total offense and did not allow a point in the game. 

“We lost two really good players (Elijah Melandez and Sinophant) for the season and we once again were missing multiple starters and contributors on both offense and defense,” Pinellas said.  “All we can really do is keep coaching them up and hope we start getting some of those players healthy.  Right now we are playing some really young players at key positions, sophomores that we thought we wouldn’t even need until next year.”

Things do not get any easier for the Kowboys.  Because there is no school on Friday, Osceola will have a short week to prepare for state power Rockledge on Thursday night at 7 p.m.