For a second straight week, big plays and mistakes cost Osceola a chance at a big win as they fell to undefeated Lakeland (3-0) on the road, 25-22.
The Kowboys fell into a major hole early, as the Dreadnaughts turned a defensive stop and an interception into a quick 13-0 lead. Osceola took the opening kickoff and after an initial first down went for it on fourth and inches only to see Elijah Melendez tackled behind the line of scrimmage.
Starting from the Osceola 40, Lakeland needed just five plays to take a 7-0 lead with Markell Johnson gaining the last six yards on a run up the middle. On the ensuing possession, Taevion Swint was hit hard and Lakeland recovered his fumble. Six players later Johnson rumbled in from the three to make it 13-0.
Osceola would fight back in the second quarter. David Buggs would hit Ja’Keem Jackson on a quick screen and Jackson would break one tackle at the line and sprint 68-yards down the left sideline to make it 13-7. Lakeland would muff the ensuing kickoff and this time Buggs needed just one play to again hit Jackson on a screen that went 43-yard for another score and a 14-13 lead.
A key moment came late in the second quarter when Osceola recovered a Lakeland fumble at midfield with 4:53 remaining. But the Kowboys would go three and out and Lakeland took over on its own 39. Daidre Zipperer would then make the play of the game, making a sensational catch of a Zach Preuss pass for 51 yards and a roughing the quarterback penalty on the play gave Lakeland a first down on the Osceola 7. Three plays later, Johnson bulled over for his third touchdown of the half and Lakeland took a 19-14 lead into the locker room.
“That sequence was a huge turning point in the game,” Osceola coach Eric Pinellas said. “We had momentum on our side and when we could not put a drive together after the turnover, they got the ball back, made a huge play and all of sudden we were down at half.”
Osceola got a break to start the third quarter when Lakeland fumbled the kickoff and the Kowboys recovered at midfield. But after driving down to the 22, a high snap to Buggs lost eight yards and Osceola failed to convert on a fourth and 12 from the 30.
From there, the teams would trade touchdowns as Larry Jones scored on a four-yard run to make it 22- 14, but Swint countered with an 8-yard touchdown run and a two-point pass from Buggs to Akeem Knox was good and Osceola trailed 25-22.
Osceola would then recover another fumble at midfield but could gain just six yards on three plays and was forced to punt. The Kowboys second shanked punt of the night carried just eight yards and gave Lakeland the ball on their own 37 with 6:51 remaining.
From there, Lakeland would pick up three first downs – the final coming on a fourth and three play with 2:51 remaining. Osceola held them out of the end zone, but Lakeland was able to run all but 28 seconds of the clock before turning the ball over on downs on the Kowboy nine yard line.
Out of time outs, Buggs fired two incompletions before being sacked on the final play of the game. Both teams made mistakes, Osceola fumbled twice, had two interceptions and turned the ball over on downs twice; while Lakeland fumbled three times.
The difference in the game was Lakeland turned the Osceola mistakes into 13 points; while the Kowboys could only manage seven points off the turnovers. Things will get no easier for the Kowboys. After back-to-back losses to Seminole (4-0) and Lakeland (3- 0), Osceola next travels to Rockledge (4-0) to face the number two team in Suburban 3A.