Dan PearsonBy:  J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola

For the last two years, Harmony head football coach Don Simon would tell anyone that would listen that running back Tyler Emans was the “real deal.” That was on full display on Wednesday night, as the junior running back ran over, around and past one defender after another on his way to leading the Longhorns to a thrilling 35-34 win over Mt. Dora.

Emans would rush for 203 yards and two touchdowns on just 15 totes, averaging 13.5 yards a carry and also retuned the second half kickoff 94 yards for another touchdown. He set up a fourth touchdown with a 43-yard run.

“He’s special, there’s no other way to describe him,” Simon said after his team went to 2-1 on the season. “We honestly don’t really try to build our offense strictly around him, even though he makes it seems that way sometimes.”

The Longhorns would need every bit of Emans’ heroics, as well as a 56-yard interception return for a touchdown by Brayden Adams in order to beat the scrappy Hurricanes (0-3).

In fact, penalties, sloppy tackling and missed assignments resulted in Harmony falling behind by 13 points in the first half.

Dante Johnson-Turner would score two first half touchdowns on runs of 9 and 13 yards and a missed assignment in the defensive backfield resulted on a 66-yard touchdown pass from Austin Trent to Toren Rogers, as the Hurricanes build a 20-7 lead at the 1:17 mark of the second quarter.

But Emans would not let Harmony down. After a block in the back negated more than half of a 75-yard kickoff return by Cooper Richards, Emans would get the Longhorns back to within six at halftime by taking a draw play, breaking two tackles at the line and taking the ball down the right sideline on a 48-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 20-14.

On the opening kickoff of the second half, Emans would break three arm tackles and run by four other defenders – going 94 yards for a touchdown and a 21-20 lead. A defensive stop, followed by another huge run by Emans of 43 yards set up a 9-yard run by Richards to make it 28-20.

Harmony would then go up by two scores on the next possession, Brayden Adams stepped in front of a Trent pass and returned the interception 56 yards for a touchdown and a 15-point lead.

But Mt. Dora proved more than a pesky opponent. Johnson-Turner would score his third and fourth touchdowns of the game, the fourth coming after a Harmony fumble, to cut the lead to 35-34. But Mt. Dora’s attempt to take the lead fell short when the Longhorn defense stuffed Johnson-Turner on the ensuing 2-point conversion following his last score.

After Harmony recovered an on-sides kick, Emans did his best to run out the clock – ripping off runs of 30 and 11 yards to give the Longhorns a first and goal on the Mt. Dora 7-yard-line. But on the next play, the Longhorns had a bad center-snap exchange that resulted in Harmony’s third turnover of the game with the Hurricanes recovering the fumble with 2:11 remaining.

Mt. Dora would pick up four first downs, but would also use almost all of the remaining clock time with four running plays. A false start penalty also hurt them as the game ended on a 12-yard completion to the Harmony 45-yard line. “I think they were using the runs to try to set us up with a double pass or some other gadget play,” Simon noted. “The false start and the fact we made a few tackles in-bounds cost them a lot of time. I’m just glad to get the victory after all the mistakes we made.”

All told, Harmony was whistled for 11 infractions for 95 yards.

Trent and Johnson-Turner both posted big games for Mt. Dora. In addition to his four touchdowns, Johnson-Turner had 200 yards rushing on 27 carries. Trent had 129 yards rushing on 13 carries and completed 9 of 15 passes for 164 yards and one touchdown. Emans had 290 all-purpose yards for Harmony and kicker Kevin Lavigne nailed all five of his extra points and sent all six of his kickoffs out of the back of the end zone. “Special teams have been pretty good for us, both tonight and through our first three games,” Simon said. “In addition to Tyler’s kickoff return, Cooper Richards had a couple of nice returns. On the other hand, Kevin’s kickoffs gave them a long field for most of the night.”

It was the second game in five days for the Longhorns, who lost a 20-16 road game to Palm Bay last Friday. The Mt. Dora game was originally scheduled as the Harmony home-opener but was postponed due to Covid-tracing issues, it was rescheduled for Wednesday when both teams had byes this weekend.

Harmony will get the weekend off, before returning to action with a home game against Gateway on Sept. 24.

Big shout out to our community business partners: Orlando Health St. Cloud Hospital, Tuffy Tire & Auto Service in St. Cloud, Huff’s Quality Air Condition, Huntington Learning Center, and Handyman Hardware.