Dan PearsonBy Dan Pearson
For Positively Osceola

The eyes of local high school football fans will be on “The Ranch” on Friday night as the Harmony Longhorns (3-1, 0-0) host the Viera Hawks (3-1, 1-0) in contest that will go a long way in determining Class 7A, District 5 championship.

“This is probably the biggest game we’ve played in since the 2018 playoff game with Kathleen,” Longhorns Head Coach Don Simon said. “It’s our first district game of the season, but these were the two teams that were considered district favorites in pre-season predictions and the winner of this game will certainly control their own destiny in the district playoff picture.”

In the Hawks, Harmony will face an explosive offense led by quarterback CJ Sims. The senior runs out of a spread formation and has already thrown for 1200 yards this season and nine touchdowns. More impressively, he has three different receivers that average more than 80 yards a game, led by 6’-5” receiver Donovan Giles, who has 21 receptions for 352 yards this season, and deep threat Quincy Gillis, who is averaging more than 27.6 yards per reception.

“They are really efficient with their passing game and because they have so many good receivers our secondary is going to have to spread out, which is going to result in a lot of one-on-one coverage,” Simon said. “We are definitely going to have to try to keep their quarterback in the pocket and try to get some pressure on him.”

Harmony won its second straight game last week with a 49-6 win over Gateway. Both Cooper Richards (10-129-3 TD) and Tyler Emans (15-146-2 TD) rushed for more than 100 yards in the contest. It’s an effort Simon believes will need to repeat against the Hawks. “We are a ball control offense and the longer we have it, the fewer chances the other team’s offense will have,” the veteran coach noted. “Long drives and no turnovers will be a huge key for us.”

Kickoff at Harmony is at 7 p.m.

Gateway (1-3) on the season will face a tough district opponent on the road when they travel to Auburndale (4-0) to face the undefeated Bloodhounds. Gateway managed just one score against the Longhorns, a touchdown pass from Ed Dyer to Delvin Pryor, something Panther Head Coach Marlin Roberts says they will need to improve on in the second half of the season. “We had spurts of success this season but we have had no real consistency. We have a lot of young players but we can’t use that as an excuse,” Roberts said.

After winning the 98th meeting over St. Cloud by impressive 56-0 fashion on Monday night, Osceola (4-1, 1-0) returns to action on Friday by hosting Windermere (2-2, 0-1). The Kowboys have been hitting on all cylinders during their current four-game winning streak, scoring 53 points per game and posting two shutouts while holding opponents to just 21 total points.

It will be Osceola’s third game in eight days, something head coach Eric Pinellas says is not a major concern. “Because of the rescheduled make-up game with St. Cloud, it just worked out that way,” Pinellas said. “We don’t pay a lot of attention to who we are playing or when we play them, as our goal remains the same — we just want to go out and play the type of football we are capable of playing.”

Windermere’s top player is running back Elijah Blackmon, who is averaging 82.3 yards rushing per game. But he may find the sledding tough against an Osceola defense that is allowing less than 1.6 yards per attempt this season and is averaging more than 7 tackles for loss per game.

Game time is 7 p.m. at Kowboys Stadium.

St. Cloud has faced with a variety of setbacks this season, including no returning starters on offense, covid-tracing issues, injuries and other situations. The Bulldogs have had problems scoring points this season (15 total points in four games) and will travel to Tavares this Friday where they will face a team with a 4-1 record that is averaging more than 30 points per game. “It will be another tough challenge for us, as we still anticipate being without some starters on both sides of the ball,” Head Coach Bryan Smart said. “We are hoping by the following week we will have the majority of our missing players back.”

Celebration (3-1, 0-1) will host Olympia (2-2, 0-1) in a district contest at 7 p.m. It will be a battle of a ground versus aerial attack, as Olympia quarterback CJ Brooks has thrown for 1200 yards and 12 touchdowns in his first four games; while Celebration’s running back Oniel Senatus is among the nation’s leaders in rushing. Senatus is averaging more than 200 yards per game, including 18 carries for 183 yards in a 16-12 win over Mulberry last Friday.

“It may be the best passing attack we face all season,” Storm Head Coach Rich Pringle says. “They spread things out and he (Brooks) does a great job of getting the ball out of his hands quickly. He usually only takes a three-step drop so it is hard to get any pressure on him.”

Pringle said success running the ball and multiple looks on defense will be the key. “They score a lot of points but they have given up a lot too. We need to run the ball, limit their offensive opportunities and try to confuse their quarterback with different looks,” Pringle said. “We need to hold them to 21 to 28 points and get a big night offensively to have a chance.”

Liberty (1-2) and Poinciana (0-4) will face Davenport (1-3) and Foundation Academy (3-1) respectively this Friday night. Liberty picked up their first win of the season last Friday with a 12-2 win over Lake Howell; while Poinciana lost to Teneroc (46-16)). Both the Chargers and Eagles have been hit hard this year with Covid-tracing problems, injuries and weather issues.