By:  J. Daniel Pearson for Positively Osceola

Photos Courtesy Katie Williams

Although the spring sports season is less than two weeks old, a spring sports team champion will be crowned next Friday as the Orange Belt Conference conducts its week-long Girls’ Flag Football Championship beginning Monday evening with quarterfinal games.

The Harmony Longhorns, winners of the last three championships and nine of the last 12, will be the top seed for the tournament.  They will open play in the tournament by hosting Tohopekaliga at 5 p.m.  Celebration will play Liberty at 7 p.m. in another quarterfinal on the Harmony campus.

Osceola was selected as the other school to host quarterfinals on the same night.  The Kowboys will play Poinciana at 5 p.m.; with Gateway meeting second-seeded St. Cloud at 7 p.m.  It will be a short turnaround for the teams as semifinal and first round placement games will be played at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Tuesday at the same sites.

Third place and Championship games will be played at Osceola High School on Friday night; while fifth and seventh place games will be played on the home campus of the highest seeds.

Due to the tournament being played so early in the season, the final state rankings from last year were used to determine seeding at this year’s OBC event.  But regardless, the Longhorns – the dominant team in the county for the past three years – would have most likely been the top seed regardless of any formula used.

Harmony has not lost an in-county game since 2021—winning their last 14 straight.  Although the Longhorns were scheduled to return five of six All-County players, including record-setting junior quarterback Martha Edwards, injuries have already taken a toll.

Ellah Husbands, who won County Defensive Player of the Year award as a freshman, suffered a severe knee injury during basketball season and is gone for the year.  Alex Ceballos, another county selection, will miss the first half of the season after injuring her knee during in the recently completed soccer season.

Still, Harmony has plenty of firepower returning.  

Edwards has guided the Longhorns to a 31-6 record in her two seasons at the helm. The lefty has accounted for 86 touchdowns in leading the Horns to two consecutive district championships and a trip to regionals. She is a two-time county Player of the Year and was selected to the Orlando Sentinel All-Regional Team. 

Kinzie James (60 receptions, 9 TDs, 3 Interceptions) and Francheska Moreno (70 catches) give Edwards two outstanding targets. Head Coach Paul Strauch says three-letter winner Ashlyn Scarborough should held fill the void left by the departure (2023 graduate) of multi-sport star Drea Thompson and that sophomore Jessica Olesen and freshmen Jada Bloodworth and Khloe Cook have shown tremendous promise in the pre-season and could alleviate some of the pressure caused by the loss of Husbands and the absence of Ceballos.

“The loss of Ellah was devastating.  She was not only a great player but a great teammate and an even better person,” Strauch said.  “Added to that, we have no real timetable on the return of Alex (Ceballos).  Still, we have a lot of talented players led by Martha Edwards.  She can make all the throws and even though accuracy has not been an issue, she has even improved in that area from last year.”

The last county team to beat Harmony was St. Cloud, who comes into the tournament as the number two seed.  Coach Shawn Beck said goodbye to two all-county players via graduation but has another all-star in junior WR/DB  Priscilla Rodriguez returning. A foursome of St. Cloud basketball players – Danigzy Mantilla, Savannah Kroener, Vanessa Vohs and Kaisley Carswell – fresh off a district championship are making the quick transition from hoops to flag football and should bolster the Bulldogs attack.

St. Cloud is coming off an 11-3 season and is off to a 2-0 start heading into a Thursday night game with Liberty.

Ethan Fournier, who posted the first winning season in Liberty’s school history (9-7) in his first season, has moved on to coach Celebration – where he had the Storm off to a 2-0 mark heading into this week’s schedule.  Senior Leena Bolejack, who was one of the top running backs in the county last year, has taken over the quarterback role for the Storm.  Through the first two games, she has accounted for seven touchdowns.  Sophomores Isabella Meadows and Sofia Sherry are the top offensive threats for the Storm.

Justin Jusino has taken over at Liberty and has the Chargers off to a 1-0 start with a 38-0 win over Tohopekaliga.  Sophomore Isabella Perez threw four touchdowns in that opener and she has support at both wide receiver in senior Monica Montes (3 touchdowns) and running back Amelia Medina (47 rushing yards).  

Under second-year head coach Samantha Lynch, Osceola (1-1 start) is another team that will have to be reckoned with in 2024.  After a 2022 season when the Kowboys won just one game and did not have enough players to finish the year, Lynch turned Osceola’s program around in one season, going 7-9.  Her top returning player for this year is WR/LB Alex Melendez but Lynch also expects freshman QB Patricia Rodriguez, junior WR Sofia Antwi Silva and sophomore RB/L Marissa Coats to be valuable contributors this year.

After leading Poinciana to a solid 8-3 mark last year, coach Johnny Perez said goodbye to several key components of a senior-laden team. With just six returning letter winners, Perez will rely on WR/LB Janessa Cloud to provide senior leadership to his young team.

“On the state and even local level, the sport continues to grow in popularity.  Most Seminole County schools have added the sport and many regions are starting to fill out with many more schools adding the sport.  There’s no question the competition is only going to get better, not only at the state but local level too,” Strauch said.  “Winning OBCs is no longer a one or two team race.  Celebration has improved its program dramatically, as has Osceola and Liberty.  Gateway, who won a title a few years ago, also appears headed back in the right direction.  It should be a great tournament.”


Monday, Mar. 4

Quarterfinals at Harmony

Game 1:  Harmony vs.Tohopekaliga, 5 p.m.

Game 4:  Celebration vs. Liberty, 7 p.m.

Quarterfinals at Osceola

  • Game 2:  Poinciana vs. Osceola, 5 p.m.
  • Game 3: Gateway vs. St. Cloud, 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Mar. 5

Semifinal at Harmony

  • Game 5:  Winner 1 vs. Winner 4, 7 p.m.

Semifinal at Osceola

  • Game 6:  Winner 2 vs. Winner 3, 7 p.m.

Placement Game at Harmony

  • Game 7:  Loser 1 vs. Loser 4, 5 p.m.

Placement Game at Osceola

  • Game 8:  Loser 2 vs. Loser 3

Friday, Mar. 8

7th Place Game (at Higher Seed)

  • Game 9:  Loser 7 vs. Loser 8, 6 p.m.

5th Place Game (at Higher Seed)

  • Game 10:  Winner 7 vs. Winner 8, 6 p.m.

At Osceola High School

3rd Place Game

  • Game 11:  Loser 5 vs. Loser 6, 5 p.m.

Championship Game

  • Game 12:  Winner 5 vs. Winner 6 7 p.m.