In the end, Osceola was simply unable to overcome big plays and mistakes.

Osceola ‘s defense allowed touchdown passes of 43, 41 and 87 yards and its special teams gave up a 90-yard kickoff return for a touchdown as West Orange sent the Kowboys down to a 35-21 road defeat on Friday night.

The win lifted the Warriors to 8-1 on the season and a perfect 4-0 in Class 8A, District 9 play. Combined with Dr. Phillips win over Olympia, it also meant the Warriors clinched the district title and that Osceola (6-2, 3-1) was eliminated from winning a district championship for the first time in more than a decade.

Still, the Kowboys remain very much alive for securing an at-large playoff berth, something that Osceola Head Coach Eric Pinellas says his team should not lose sight of. “Last year, Vero Beach beat us badly in early November and we fell to 5-2,” Pinellas said. “We then recouped and made a deep run into the playoffs – making it to the state championship game. I told our kids there’s no reason we can’t do the same thing this year.”

It was not just the big plays the Kowboys allowed on defense and special teams that cost them the game. Despite compiling big numbers in total yards, Osceola failed to take advantage of offensive opportunities all night.

Witness the fact that on their first two possessions of the game, they had the ball deep in West Orange but came away with no points – fumbling the ball on their first possession on a muffed handoff exchange and giving the ball up on downs on the second.

The Kowboys would fumble the ball away on another drive in the first half, but a touchdown pass from Chad Mascoe to Taevion Swint and a short touchdown run by Ja’Randy Swint still gave them a 14-7 lead at the 2:40 mark of the third quarter. But Matt McDoom’s 90-yard kickoff return for touchdown cut the lead to 14-13 with less than three minutes to go in the half.

Osceola still had a chance to build the lead before intermission as Mascoe drove the Kowboys down to the West Orange 25. But a potential touchdown pass was dropped in the end zone and a false start was followed by a sack and Osceola had to settle for a one-point lead at the half.

The mistakes continued in the third quarter. After West Orange took the lead on a 41-yard pass from Huff to Rocky Rudolph, a potential game-tying 12-yard touchdown run by Mascoe was called back on a holding penalty. Huff would follow with an 87-yard touchdown pass to Eddie Kelly that should have been nothing more than a short gain on a screen pass.

Trailing 28-14, Mascoe would lead Osceola on a 10-play, 82-yard drive that was capped on a 30-yard pass to Chris Combs to cut the lead to 28-21. Mascoe was terrific on the drive, completing a 44-yard pass to Perry Garrett after a 35-yard completion was wiped out by a holding penalty and then hitting Combs on a 4th and 19 play.

Penalties would then prove to be the real killer for Osceola.

On a second and eight play from their own 37, Huff fired an incompletion but the Kowboys were whistled for a late-hit, followed by an unsportsmanlike penalty for arguing the call. The 30-yards in penalties set up West Orange on the Osceola 33 and an ensuing pass interference penalty gave them a first down on the Kowboy 16. The defense would stiffen and eventually force a punt, giving Osceola the ball back at its own 15 with four minutes remaining and a chance to tie.

But a chop block and a sack move the ball back to the seven and with Mascoe throwing from own end zone, Gibson would step in front of a Kowboys receiver and return an interception 30 yards for a touchdown to clinch the win.

“We simply made too many mistakes to win this game,” Pinellas added. “We were out of position on a few passes, we tackled poorly on a few more, we dropped a couple of touchdown passes, we put the ball on the ground and we had some untimely penalties. When you do that against a good team, you are not going to win the game,”

Osceola returns to action on Friday night with a district matchup at home with Celebration (5-3), who defeated Windermere last week 49-7.

WO: Jayden Gibson 43 pass from Tyler Huff (Jack Simonetta kick)
OSC: Travion Swint 12 pass from Chad Mascoe (Alejandro Gutierrez kick)
OSC: Ja’Randy Swint 1 run (Gutierrez kick)
WO: Matt McDoom 90 KO Return (Kick Failed)
WO: Rocky Rudolph 41 pass from Huff (Huff pass Gibson)
WO: Eddie Kelly 93 pass from Huff (Simonetta kick)
OSC: Chris Combs 30 pass from Mascoe (Gutierrez kick)
WO: Gibson 30 Interception Return (Simonetta kick)