By: J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola
The 2021 high school football regular season comes to an end this weekend with seven of Osceola’s eight public schools in action. Here’s a look at what is coming up:
BATTLE OF BOULEVARDS
LIBERTY (4-5) at POINCIANA (1-8)
Poinciana will have its hands full on Friday night when they try to break the Liberty stranglehold has held in the Battle of the Boulevards. Liberty opened its doors 15 years ago just a few miles from Poinciana High School – siphoning off a good portion of its first classes from that school and creating a natural rivalry. Although Poinciana-Liberty circumstance has been similar to the one at St. Cloud-Harmony, the football rivalry has not been the same as the Chargers have dominated the series – winning all 14 previous games by and outscoring the Eagles 620 to 186 in the process. Only the first game, an 18-16 Liberty win in 2007, has been close.
Despite the series record and the fact his team will be heavily favored to make it 15 in a row, Liberty Head Coach Brett Munroe says his team will not be taking the Eagles lightly. “As we saw last week in the Harmony-St. Cloud game, anything can happen in these rivalry games. This is the one game every year that the players on both teams point to and it is always played with a lot of emotion.”
Liberty fell to 4-5 last week with a disappointing 14-12 loss to Mulberry. The game was played in a driving rainstorm and a two missed extra point conversions and a questionable call that took a safety off the board cost the Chargers a chance for the win. Senior David Bacote, substituting for injured quarterback Jeremiah Pierre-Louis (broken hand – out for season), threw for one touchdown and ran for another in the loss.
Poinciana got its first win of the season last week defeating Ambassadors Christian Academy 13-8. Against Ambassador, juniors Seth McWhorter and Jaylon Morris split time at quarterback, each scoring a rushing touchdown in the win.
The Eagles will be shorthanded against Liberty as five starters will miss the game for various reasons. “On paper, we will be over-matched personnel wise against Liberty but we will put in a good week of work and get ready,” Poinciana Head Coach Randy Beeken said.
UNIVERSITY (6-1) at OSCEOLA (7-2)
Because the Titans are 6-1 and ranked 17th in the state in Class 7A, Osceola will pick up ranking points for University’s strength of schedule and most likely earn a playoff spot even with a loss, but Head Coach Eric Pinellas will be looking to build some momentum for the post-season for his Kowboys.
Osceola went to 7-2 last week with a 49-7 win over Celebration, but it was just a one touchdown lead at halftime – something that Pinellas was not happy about. “We’ve got to get the idea out of some kids heads that when teams see ‘Kowboys’ on the chest they just lay down for us,” the first year head coach said.. “We’ve got to play four quarters; because we’re a lot of teams’ Super Bowls. Credit to the Storm though, this was not the Celebration of old, they are well-coached.”
Still the Kowboys defense had a great game, limiting Storm running back sensation Oneil Senatus 34 yards on 21 carries with 20 of those yards coming on one play. Offensively, Osceola piled up more than 450 yards of total offense and saw seven different players score touchdowns.
Kickoff is at 7 p.m. at Markus Paul Stadium.
HARMONY (5-4) at NEW SMYRNA BEACH (6-3)
After last week’s upset loss to St. Cloud knocked the Longhorns out of any playoff consideration, Harmony plays its last game of the season with a chance to finish above .500. With a big game against St. Cloud (179 yards rushing, three touchdowns), running back Tyler Emans will look to add his school records of 1,367 yards rushing and 26 total touchdowns in 2021.
“We’ve had five games decided by a score and this could be another one,” Longhorns Head Coach Don Simon said. “A couple of plays is the difference between us being 8-1 or 3-6. Our message this week has been let’s pay attention to details, have a strong finish and get to six wins.”
GATEWAY (2-7) at CELEBRATION (5-4)
Although the Storm lost 49-7 last week to Osceola, head coach Rich Pringle has established a new attitude at Celebration. The team has a chance to finish with just its second winning season in school history and may have a chance to finish with seven wins if a proposed bowl game comes to fruition.
The guaranteed non-losing regular season is more impressive when one considers that Celebration elected not play as an independent and instead competed in one of the toughest districts in the state that included West Orange, Osceola and Dr. Phillips.
Gateway was shutout by District Power Lake Wales by a 58-0 score last week and will attempt. The Panthers lead the all-time series with Celebration, 5-2, but the Storm won the most recent game – a 27-16 decision last year.
ST. CLOUD (3-6) at WINTER SPRINGS (1-7)
With problems with Covid-tracing, injuries, suspensions and no returning starters on offense, St. Cloud has an opportunity to finishing with a respectable 4-6 record with a win over 1-7 Winter Springs. The Bulldogs reached season highs last week in points (31), first downs (11), passing yards (118) and total yards (233) in the win. The victory came with the Bulldogs starting five freshmen, including quarterback Logan King.
TOHOPEKALIGA (2-8) IDLE
The Tigers (2-8) wrapped up their 2021 campaign with a 40-0 loss on Monday night to Lake Nona (6-3), who received 205 passing yards and two touchdowns from Khari Rennie and 135 rushing yards and two more scores from Daniel Cevallos. It was a rough year for the Tigers, who were shutout six times this year and outscored 106-19 in their last three games.