By: J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola
An outstanding season came to an end for the Celebration boys’ volleyball team in the state championship tournament, as they dropped a heart-breaking five-set decision to #2 ranked Winter Park High School. In other sports, four athletes from the county earned All-State honors in individual events and one county relay team reached the podium at the FHSAA State Track and Field Championship.
A look around Osceola County:
FHSAA BOYS’ VOLLEYBALL STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
Although its season ended on Friday in the FHSAA State Quarterfinals, there absolute little doubt that the Storm had one of the best teams in Florida this year. Holding their own while playing numerous top 15 teams during the regular season, Celebration (21-10) suffered a heartbreaking five-set loss to #2 ranked Winter Park (27-3) at the state tournament being held at Polk State College in Winter Haven this past weekend.
The Storm dropped the first set 25-22, but came back to win back-to-back sets by 25-22 and 25-17 margins – leaving Celebration just one game short of pulling the upset and advancing to the semifinals. But Winter Park came back with a vengeance, pulling out a three-point win in Set 4 (25-22) before edging the Storm out in the deciding “Race to 15” fifth set, 15-12.
As has been the case all season, senior Darion Graham and junior Diego Rivera led the Storm offense with 23 and 21 kills respectively. Libero Keith Harrison had 29 digs. Cole Colado had 18 kills to lead Winter Park; Jacob Little added three blocks at the net.
“I thought we came out a little nervous and tight in the first set and then we dominated the next two games,” Celebration coach Pedro Davila said. “Unfortunately we could just not close it out. We did not start out on a good foot this year (Celebration lost four of their first five matches) but this team came together and by the end of the season, we were playing with, and beating some of the best teams in the state.”
Davila went on to say losing Graham and Harrison to graduation would be tough, but “We have some good talent coming back and some younger kids moving up to varsity. It may take some time but we have established a winning culture at Celebration and fully expect to be competitive again next year.”
Celebration finishes the season by winning 13 of their last 15 matches. They won OBC, District and Regional Championships on their way to becoming the fourth team in school history to reach the state championship tournament.
FHSAA TRACK AND FIELD STATE CHAMPIONSHIPS
The FHSAA State Track and Field championships were held last week on the University of North Florida Campus and several county athletes came away with all-state honors.
Reaching the podium on Saturday’s 4A meet from Osceola County were Tohopekaliga’s Jevon Andrew Brown with a sixth place in the boys’ triple jump (45’-8”); Celebration’s Catalina Edwards with a seventh place finish in the girls’ 1600 meters (5:08.66); Osceola’s Quayana Jenkins, Zanaya Bright, Kadreah Vernardo and Shannon Levy seventh in the girls’ 4 x100 relay (47.88); and Harmony’s Drea Thompson eighth in the high jump (5’-1 ¾”). On Friday’s Class 3A Meet, Gateway’s Amela Johnson earned all-state honors by placing sixth in the 400-meter run with a time of 56.85. She also qualified for the 200, finishing 16th in a 26.01.
Some of the top non-podium finishes from Osceola County included Osceola’s David Buggs (12th in discus), St. Cloud’s Yadiel Rivera-Alonso (11th in Triple Jump), Osceola’s Levy (14th in the 100); Harmony and Celebration’s girls’ 4 x 800 relay teams (12th and 15th respectively); while Harmony boys’ 4 x 800 relay team posted a 12th place finish.
SPRING FOOTBALL GAMES
EDGEWATER 24, OSCEOLA 7
Coming off a 10-4 season where they made a run to the FHSAA Class 7A semifinals, Osceola has some major holes to fill with the graduation of 15 seniors – including five that have signed to play Division-1 football. The Kowboys wrapped up spring practice on May 18 with their annual spring game against state power Edgewater, dropping a 24-7 decision.
Rising junior Taevion Swint scored the lone Osceola touchdown in the game. Former wide receiver Notorious Reynolds took most of the snaps at quarterback. “We don’t worry too much about wins and losses in spring games,” Coach Eric Pinellas said. “We have most of our offensive line back along with Taevion Swint so we are not too concerned with the offense. Our goal this spring was to have our defense gel into a cohesive unit and I think we were able to accomplish that.”
The Kowboys were without the services of several defensive players who figure to see significant playing time this fall including Kyri Watson, Je’mario Bradford and Jermiah Wiggins-Baker. Pinellas also announced that senior Gunner Holland, Osceola’s backup quarterback for the past two seasons, was not playing football this fall in order to concentrate wrestling – where he has reached the championship podium three times in his career, including winning state championships as a freshman and sophomore.
TOHOPEKALIGA 14, HAGERTY 14
The Tohopekaliga – Hagerty spring game was shortened by weather issues on Thursday night, but Tiger coach Anthony Paradiso said his team got 30-40 minutes of “solid work in.” Tohopekaliga scores came on a touchdown pass from Sabby Meassick to Louis Figueroa and a “scoop and score” fumble recovery by Delvin Pryor.
Paradiso described the spring as a definite “work in progress” with the only goal being to “get better every day.” He did cite the play this spring of rising senior OLB/Nickel Back Rashaud James. “His improvement from last fall through this spring has been night and day. He has a chance to become an outstanding football player.”
GEORGE JENKINS – CELEBRATION NO CONTEST
The game had barely started before a severe thunderstorm hit and hung over the field for 90 minutes causing the cancellation of Celebration’s spring game with George Jenkins. Storm head coach Jeremy Palmer said the most encouraging thing about Thursday was the fact that his young team “was truly angry they did not get to play the game.” He said the team’s attitude, despite being very young, has been “outstanding during the entire spring season.”
Celebration graduated the vast majority of its playmakers from a season ago, but returns most of its young offensive line and that unit has shown incredible improvement from last fall to the end of spring camp with junior Anthony El dib will lead that group. Look for rising sophomore Landen Yaw to take over at quarterback for the Storm. Palmer describes him as a “young kid who is absolutely fearless. He has shown a good grasp of our offense and can make most of the throws.”
ST. CLOUD 42, FREEDOM 21
St. Cloud used a solid passing game and also ran the ball well in scoring four of the game’s last five touchdowns –breaking a 14-14 tie and cruising to a three-touchdown win. The Bulldogs did not commit a turnover while rolling up 459 yards in the game, which with the exception of the kicking game was played under live varsity conditions.
Owen Conner scored on both a rushing and receiving touchdown, while T.J. Griffin carried 11 times for 147 yards and a score. Junior quarterback Logan King went 11-of-21, 276 yards and three scores.
POINCIANA 28, GATEWAY 0
Positively Osceola was there for the Eagles big win over the Panthers. You can ready the game story here: https://www.positivelyosceola.com/nunn-knox-lead-poinciana-eagles-past-panthers-28-0-in-spring-football/
FINAL GAMES THIS WEEK
The final sports action of the 2022-23 school year will take place this week when Liberty and Harmony play their spring football games. Nick Lippert, who was named interim coach when Don Simon stepped down in April, will lead his team in a road game against Mt. Dora at 7 p.m. Wednesday. On Thursday, Liberty will host a jamboree – playing two quarters each against Winter Haven Ambassadors Christian Academy and Discovery High. The jamboree will kick at 4:30 p.m.