When West Orange defeated Osceola 35-21 a few weeks ago to clinch the Class 8A, District 9 Championship, both Warriors Head Coach Michael Grenato and Kowboys head coach Eric Pinellas called it “round one,” implying that both felt a rematch was likely in the playoffs.

Following Osceola’s 28-21 come-from-behind road win over Newsome and the Warriors 55-6 dismantling of Durant, round two is now a reality.

Only this time, the stakes will be even higher as the Kowboys (9-2) travel to West Orange (10-1) for a region semifinal on Friday at 7:30 p.m. The winner will advance to the region final to face the winner of the Riverview-Sarasota (9-2) vs. Venice (10-1) for the regional championship and a trip to the Final Four.

Although the Kowboys outgained West Orange in total offense in the first game, big plays proved their undoing as the Warriors scored on plays of 41, 90, 41, 93 and 30 yards. Those plays included a kickoff and interception return for a touchdown, with the 93-yard scoring play coming on a screen pass where Osceola missed several tackles.

The Kowboys out-gained West Orange 508 yards to 288.

“We put ourselves in a bad position all night,” Pinellas said of the game. “They are an extremely talented and well-coached team and took full advantage of our mistakes. Still, there is not a lot of difference between these two teams. Both have good offenses and defenses.”

Defensively, the Kowboys shut down West Orange running attack in the first game – limiting them to less than 35 yards. Still, the Warriors have two talented running backs in Terrell Walden (83 carries – 651 yards – 14 touchdowns) and Jessie Shannon (79-442-1).

But it is the West Orange passing game led by senior quarterback Tyler Huff and a bevy of talented receivers that include Jayden Gibson, Assad Wassem, and tight end Ed Kelly that caused problems for Osceola. Huff threw for 1442 yards and 21 touchdowns in the regular season, including 253 yards and three touchdowns against the Kowboys.

Gibson caught 13 of Huff’s touchdowns in the regular season; while Wassam and Kelly have each added five.

“We actually did a decent job of bottling them up in the first game with the exception of those big plays,” Pinellas said. “But they are so explosive and if you get out of position for just one play they can turn in into six points. That is what happened in the first game.”

The Kowboys had success moving the ball on the Warriors for the entire game both through the air and on the ground as quarterback Chad Mascoe threw for 353 yards (181 to Chris Combs) and Osceola average more than 4.8 yards per carry. But Mascoe was also intercepted twice, the Kowboys fumbled twice and turned the ball over on downs twice.

Key penalties and dropped passes also hurt the Kowboys.

Still, Pinellas is encouraged as the Kowboys came off what he called “our best offensive performance of the season” against a stout Newsome defense. Mascoe completed 19 of 29 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns and Osceola also rushed for 159 yards on 33 carries and scored two more touchdowns. “Our offensive line played its best game of the season and Chad did a great job of moving the pocket and using his legs when he had to.”

OSCEOLA COUNTY FOOTBALL NOTES: The Celebration Storm, 7-4, capped their season off last week with an impressive 33-0 win over Freedom in a bowl game. The win tied the Storm for the best record in school history — where they went 7-4 in 2015 – and was also just their second winning season in the school’s 18-year history. Junior running back sensation Oniel Senatus finished the season with school records for rushing yards (1820) and touchdowns (27). Osceola County will feature three of the area’s best running backs next year. Senatus returns to Celebration, while Harmony will feature one of the best in rising senior Tyler Emans, who also set school records with 1367 rushing yards and 26 touchdowns in just nine games this season. Add in the return of freshman standout Taevion Swint, who amassed more than 1200 total yards and scored 13 times in less than 100 touches this season, and Osceola County had plenty of running back star power coming back in 2022.