By: J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola
Stepping on the gas early and never letting up, the Lady Longhorns flag football team hammered Horizon, 27-0, on Thursday night to claim the FHSAA Class 2A, District 9 championship.
It was the Longhorns second consecutive District crown and 10th in school history. Harmony will now wait to see who and where they will play on Wednesday in a regional quarterfinal as they move to within three games of the State Final Four.
“I would not be truthful and I told you I wasn’t concerned about tonight’s game,” Harmony coach Paul Strauch said. “Horizon is a really talented team and they certainly caught my attention when they manhandled St. Cloud (a 19-2 win) in the semifinals. We had several girls rehabbing injuries and several others that were battling illness. I was extremely proud of how we played tonight, especially on defense.”
Horizon opened this year and the upstart Hawks came into the tournament with a 14-1 record in their first season. They were also allowing less than four points per game. The Hawks big win over St. Cloud in Tuesday’s semifinal came just three weeks after the Longhorns needed a touchdown with just 20 seconds remaining to beat St. Cloud, 7-0, in an Orange Belt Conference Tournament semifinal game.
Still, the Longhorns dominated in all phases of the final.
After Horizon won the toss and deferred, Harmony quarterback Martha Edwards drove the Longhorns down the field in nine plays – hitting Drea Thompson on a 6-yard scoring pass for a 6-0 lead.
Thompson would then extend the lead just four plays later, intercepting Mirian Athay and returning it 30 yards for a score and then catching the conversion for a 13-0 lead. The play would end up being the theme for the night as Harmony would record five interceptions and hold Horizon to just 121 yards of total offense on 29 plays.
Our defense and my defensive coordinator Drew (Paul’s brother Drew Strauch) did a great job tonight,” Strauch said. “He had our girls being super aggressive in going for the ball.”
Three possessions after Thompson’s pick, Hannah Simmons intercepted Athay and three plays later Edwards connected with Kenzie James and Harmony had a 20-0 lead. The Longhorns would then get an interception from by Ellah Husbands and would hold on downs on the next drive to preserve the big halftime lead.
The Hawks tried to get back in the game at the start of the third period, taking the ball from their own 15 down to the Harmony 11. But Alex Means made a diving interception to stop the drive and then Edwards led Harmony on a time-consuming, methodical 12-play, 75-yard scoring drive capped off on James’ second touchdown reception of the game to make it 27-0 in the fourth quarter.
On the clinching drive, Edwards completed her final 10 passes of the drive to finish 22 of 32 for 191 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. “Martha had a fantastic game,” Strauch said of his left-handed sophomore quarterback. “She can make all the throws and did a great job of running the offense and controlling the clock in the second half.”
Husbands would cap off the night with her second interception in the game and Edwards would run out the clock as Harmony limit Horizon to just two possessions and 11 plays in the second half.
“We’ll enjoy this game tonight and get back to work tomorrow,” Strauch said. “If we are paired with a district runner-up we will host a quarterfinal game on Wednesday. If not, the highest ranked team will host.”