St. Cloud turns aside Tohopekaliga in 12-0 defensive struggle; Osceola gets big district win

It took just two years, but Tohopekaliga-St. Cloud is a rivalry game, and it looked every bit the part on Friday.

On a night that both sides knew would be tough because a small handful of Tigers were Bulldogs last year, and it seemed everybody on both sides was familiar – they had a lot to say back and forth between plays, and much of it was, well, not nice – it was a defensive effort from St. Cloud that turned away its rival from just a few miles north and east.

St. Cloud got key turnovers when they needed them and did just enough on offense to earn the 12-0 win over Toho on Homecoming night to go to 3-0, the only undefeated team now in Osceola County, but more importantly, 1-0 in District 7A-5.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve been 1-0 in district, or 3-0, here,” Bulldogs Coach Bryan Smart said. “I don’t know what to say, I’m just so proud of these kids for staying composed and in the moment.”

Neither team could sustain a drive during a scoreless first half. Just when the Tigers did, St. Cloud linebacker Caleb Endicott picked off a pass near the goal line in order to grab the Turnover Bone (even though Coach Moore looked so regal on the sidelines wearing it). Tahquis Armstrong returned the favor with a pick of his own.

The Bulldogs fixed the offensive woes on the first drive of the third quarter, which began in a driving rain. Smart opted to stay on the ground until reaching the red zone, when Garhett King lofted a pass that Patrick Forsythe caught while falling backward for a 17-yard score that capped a 12-play, 75-yard drive that took six minutes.

Tohopekaliga looked to have the answer on their next drive but Jovan Morrison’s 71-yard TD run was called back on a holding penalty – a theme for the Tigers Friday. On their next drive they moved from their 19 to the Bulldog 28, but a fumble derailed the drive. Romeo Medina recovered, and St. Cloud drove 75 yards in just over three minutes; Ronny Ramos’ 3-yard touchdown run made it a two-score game. Morrison had a big kickoff return into Bulldog territory and the Tigers reached the two-yard line, but the Bulldogs rose up with a goal-line stand to seal the shutout.

“We had a real rivalry game tonight,” Smart said. “(The Tigers) are so much better in just a year. We knew it was going to be a hard game, I hope it will be like that for years to come.”

THS Coach Marc Deas said his team was its own nemesis with turnovers and costly penalties.

“We had so many chances where one play could have turned the game,” he said. “We played them a lot better than we did last year (a 56-14 loss). We have a bye next week so we’ll watch film, get in the weight room, then we’re going to need a great week of practice ahead of Melbourne.”

The Bulldogs will put the undefeated mark on the line next week at Celebration.

Osceola 42, Celebration 14 – The Kowboys, seeking a ninth consecutive district title, took an upper hand toward that with a dominating performance in a District 8A-6 game. Davon Wells and Ja’Randy Swint scored twice as OHS racked up a 35-6 halftime lead and cruised. Celebration, which has never beaten Osceola in three tries, got a pair of touchdown passes from Will Bohn to Lee Smith.

Osceola welcomes Liberty next week.

Melbourne 33, Harmony 27 – The Longhorns couldn’t lasso their first win of the year in their District 7A-5 opener, despite an early lead and some solid defense in the second half.

Harmony scored first on a 65-yard touchdown run, but Bulldogs quarterback Justin Popovich hit Jared Spragins on three touchdown passes the rest of the half, the last just seconds before halftime to make it 20-7 at the break.

Trailing 27-10 headed to the fourth quarter, Harmony clawed back in the game. A blocked punt set up a three-yard TD run, and defensive lineman Darren Davis’ strip and score made it 27-24. After Popovich tossed his fourth TD pass of the game, Reese Allison kicked his second field goal of the game to make it 33-27, but Harmony would not get the ball back and expending all their remaining time outs.

The Longhorns will go to Gateway next week to face the Panthers, also seeking their first win. Speaking of GHS …

Heritage 40, Gateway 17 – Phillip Bangura, who earlier returned a kickoff 93 yards for a score, opened the second half with a 44-yard TD run to make it 17-16 Heritage in both teams’ District 6A-8 debut.

But Heritage scored the final 21 points of the game from there to put it away.

Winter Haven 24, Liberty 0 – The Blue Devils piled up 264 rushing yards in this District 7A-6 game. The Chargers (0-3) remained winless and travel to Osceola next week.