Their offense didn’t touch the ball for over nine minutes of game clock time.
They were flagged for nearly as many penalty yards as they gained on offense.
Their longest touchdown drive was 15 yards.
Then how in the world did Osceola earn a 20-7 regional semifinal playoff victory Friday on the turf of its recent postseason rival, Dr. Phillips? By playing Kowboy Football.
Osceola (10-1) took advantage of a pair of Panthers turnovers, one to set the offense up on a short field and another that swung all the momentum to the Kowboys, and with the win over Dr. Phillips (9-3) and an unlikely Steinbrenner 27-24 win over region top seed Sarasota Riverview, OHS will play at home next week against the team from Lutz.
Friday’s win wasn’t pretty — think of two mountain lions banging horns for over two hours — as Osceola had 195 yards of offense and overcame 145 yards in penalties.
But even Coach Doug Nichols knows that this time over year is about surviving and advancing, no matter the style points earned.
“We were running the ball and getting the turnovers,” he said. “The penalties were for some pretty dumb stuff these kids don’t normally do, jumping offsides and stuff. We definitely didn’t dominate, we gave them their chances. We’ll take it any way they can get it.”
Early on, Friday’s game looked much like the team’s 2017 playoff meeting — a fistfight in a phone booth in which Dr. Phillips got in the first good swing. Osceola went three-and-out on its first two drives, and the Panthers, helped by 25 yards in Kowboy penalties, scored first on a Brandon Fields 10-yard run. But when Fields couldn’t handle a snap on Dr. Phillips’ next series, defensive end Dylan Ruiz, off a big game last week against Riverview, pounced on the ball at the Panthers’ 15. Five plays later, DeWayne McGee found the end zone from three yards out after Davon Wells converted on fourth-and-1.
Osceola grinded the clock on its next drive and after Ja’Randy Swint carried for eight yards on third-and-5 form its own 21, took the lead on Spencer Richards’ 23-yard field goal with 1:32 left in the first half. It’d the last time the Kowboy offense touched the ball for … awhile.
The Panthers took the second-half kickoff and methodically marched downfield and reached the Kowboy 6, until Jeremiah Wilson swung all the momentum to Osceola. He stepped in front of an Isaiah Givens pass at the 5 and returned it 95 yards for a touchdown and a 17-7 lead.
Dr. Phillips would drive the field again, but get halted again by the Kowboy defense and missed a 37-yard field goal with 4:47 left in the third quarter.
“I love these kids,” defensive coordinator Scott Spencer exclaimed after the miss.
With the ball — finally — the Kowboys drove it and held it for nearly nine minutes. McGee ran for 23 yards on a second-and-20 — Osceola’s first scrimmage play longer than nine yards — drove to the 20, and got another Richards field goal, this time from 37 yards, for a 20-7 lead with just over eight minutes left in the game.
The Panthers’ final two offensive plays were a failed receiver screen pass option on third down and and overthrow on fourth. Osceola got the ball back with 7:44 left and never gave it back, converting four first downs, all done on the ground.
“Our kids get a sense of when the other team’s done, and want to keep hammering it right at them and put it away,” Nichols said. “When they get that confidence we just let them roll with it.”
Dr. Phillips held a 205-195 yardage edge — but they’ll be clearing out a locker room Monday, while the Kowboys enter to go back to work Friday.
These teams met in the 2015 and 2017 playoffs. The road team has won all three meetings. Osceola is back in the regional finals after four straight trips (2012-15).
We’d like to thank our Community Business Partners, St. Cloud Medical Group, Mike Fisher for Osceola County Sheriff, Kissimmee Utility Authority, and Central Florida Building Corporation. Thank you all for joining us in supporting Osceola Schools Athletics and all the students, families and volunteers that make it possible!
We’ll see you Friday!