Dan PearsonBy:  J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola

After posting their fourth consecutive losing season last year, veteran Gateway coach Marlin Roberts is hopeful an infusion of new talent will help bolster the Panthers in 2022. If Friday night’s 27-20 win over Lake Buena Vista is any sign, the Panthers might be on their way to turning things around!

That optimism stems from several factors, including the arrival of defensive end/defensive tackle Chris Martin-Charity from Virginia. “He big strong kid and he’s only a sophomore,” Roberts said. “Chris can either play inside or on the end and that’s another plus, we’ll be able to move him a round and try to put him in position where he can be most effective.”

Fahmi Goldsto n is another transfer that should help the Panthers; while Joshua Fuller – a sophomore speedster on the track team – is playing football for the first time and has caught the attention of Panther coaches this spring. “He’s a big, strong and fast; sort of reminds me of the Harmony kid (Tyler Emans) when he was younger,” Robert said. “He has incredible instincts too, and he just needs to understand that it’s okay to run over people as well as around them.”

The Panthers may need major contributions from Fuller, as starting quarterback Eli Azize broke his leg in the spring and is not likely to return before Week 3 or 4 this year. Two other players – running back Jaquavion Pinellas and WR Devon Pryor – transferred leaving Gateway thin at skill positions.

Roberts is hopeful that either Harmony junior transfer Hunter Waller or one of several out of state transfers can come in and take over the quarterback position – at least in the early going. Gateway does return two veteran running backs in Aiden Morillo and Ishmail Sesay but also must rely on a brand new starting offensive line.

Defensively, the arrival of Martin-Charity will allow Jamare Owens (5-10, 190) to move back to his more natural position at linebacker. Pierre Julien returns, as does Kevin Montilla –a linebacker who missed most of his junior year with a broken arm.

“We have some talent, particularly on the defensive side of the ball,” Roberts said. “But as has been the case the last couple of years, we simply do not have very much depth. We are playing a lot of kids both ways and we cannot afford to get players hurt.”

Beginning his 22nd year at the school and 14th as head coach, Roberts is the Dean of Osceola County high school football coaches. He believes the opening of Tohopekaliga High School four years ago was a major setback for Gateway football and those effects are still being felt. “When Toho opened they took almost half our students and –by simple math – half our athletes,” he said. “While most schools in the county continue to burst at the seams, we have empty classrooms. I’m hopeful they will rezone soon and help us get our numbers back up.”

In three years prior to Tohopekaliga opening, the Panthers were 20-12 but have been 10-31 since.

Gateway will compete in new Class 3A, District 8 – one of the largest districts in the state with the Panthers joining Auburndale, Lake Wales, Lake Region, Davenport and Liberty. Non-conference games include contests against county rivals St. Cloud and Tohopekaliga.

Suburban 3, District 8 8/19 at Horizon 7 p.m.* – canceled due to weather
8/26 Lake Buena Vista 7 p.m.  – Gateway 27 Lake Buena Vista 20
9/2 at Tohopekaliga 7 p.m.
9/16 Auburndale 7 p.m.**
9/23 at Ocala West Port 7 p.m.
9/30 Liberty 7 p.m.**
10/7 St. Cloud 7 p.m.
10/13 Lake Wales 7 p.m.**
10/21 at Lake Region 7 p.m.**
10/28 at Davenport 7 p.m.**
11/4 at Lyman 7 p.m.
*Kickoff Classic Exhibition **District Game