As hurricane Ian approached last week, Osceola County announced that school would be closed on Wednesday and Thursday – forcing county schools to move their Friday home games to Monday night. But local flooding and debris on roads resulted in a late Friday announcement that schools would remain closed on Monday, which meant all seven games would end up being postponed or cancelled – as state rules prohibit athletic contests or practices to be held on days when school is cancelled.
As coaches and athletic directors were left scrambling with trying to determine make-up dates, they all are hopeful school is in session by Tuesday so they can begin prep work for Week 7 games this Friday night.
The scheduled was further mucked up, when Osceola’s scheduled road opponent for Oct. 7, Sarasota Riverview, also cancelled that game – leaving the Kowboys with the possibility of not playing for three weeks. With the some late Saturday night negotiations, they were able to schedule a road game with Jones High School for Monday, Oct. 9. It will be the start of an extremely busy eight-day period, as Osceola will then travel to Celebration to play a district game with the Storm on Thursday, Oct. 13 and then play a makeup game with St. Cloud on Monday, Oct. 17.
“Given the circumstances, this was the best thing for us,” Osceola coach Eric Pinellas said. “We certainly did not want to go three weeks in the middle of the season without playing a game.” But as has been the case when the schedule was originally released, the Kowboys cannot be accused of padding their schedule with wins.
Although just 2-2, Jones is one of the top programs in the state. They own a win over Cocoa, the top ranked team in Suburban 2, while their losses came to Ducansville (5-0), a Texas based school that is the 15th ranked team in the nation; and Edgewater (5-0) – the second ranked team in Metro 3 and ninth ranked overall team in the state.
“Lot of tradition at Jones,” Pinellas said. “They have a lot of size and skilled athletes and will certainly present a challenge to us.”
In other county games, Tohopekaliga (4-0) returns to action on Friday where they will be favored to remain undefeated when they host Wesley Chapel. The Wildcats, who scheduled a makeup game with Zephyrhills on Monday, took a 0-4 record into that game and had scored just seven points all season.
“Don’t know much about them, as I have never faced them in my coaching career, but I anticipate that they will be fundamentally sound and well-coached” Tigers coach Anthony Paradiso said. “To tell the truth I am more concerned about our players and their families. Some have had real issues with flooding and were displaced after the storm. Hopefully our entire team will be intact by Friday.”
Meanwhile, freshman Tigers quarterback Sabby Meassick has been nominated for the national “Freshman Player of the Year” by scorebooklive.com, a website covering national high school sports. Meassick has thrown for 1438 yards, 28 touchdowns and just one interception while completing 76.8% of his passes in his first four starts.
Gateway (1-2), who had its district contest with Liberty (0-4) postponed; will get back on the field on this week, but the date is not confirmed. “We have asked Liberty to play the makeup game on Wednesday, if they agree St. Cloud has agreed to move our game to Saturday. If Liberty cannot play on Wednesday, we will play St. Cloud on Friday,” Panther coach Marlin Roberts said. “I thought Covid created chaos, but that was a picnic compared to the crazy stuff that has happened this year. We are starting Week Seven and have only played three games so far.”
Although St. Cloud has defeated Gateway three straight times, it has developed into a pretty good rivalry game for both teams as the Panthers have won three of the last eight games. “It’s really a friendly rivalry between the two schools,” Roberts added. “We enjoy playing them and they seem to like playing us.”
“It’s definitely a rivalry game for us, I have worked with Coach Roberts for a number of years. The other thing is there had been a history of a lot of kids being zoned for St. Cloud and then be rezoned for Poinciana and visa-versa. Bottom line is we have a lot of respect for Gateway and we know regardless of the talent level, Marlin will have his kids ready to play,” Bulldogs coach Mike Short said.
Don Simon’s Harmony (3-1) team should return to normalcy the next couple of weeks and its stats on Friday night when the Longhorns host Hagerty (4-0) in a non-district 7 p.m. game at The Ranch. With a lot of senior leadership led by dual threat quarterback Anthony Benjiza (7 TD passes, 3 TD rushing), Hagerty has a balanced attack; as well as a stout defense that is allowing less than six points per game.
“Their quarterback is a stud and I love their offensive line, it is very solid,” Simon noted. “We will have to play a lot better on offense this week. The key this week will be first downs. We need to pick up good yardage on first down and then continue to move the chains and finish drives. We absolutely need to be more efficient on first downs.”
Although 3-1 on the season, the Longhorns have struggled in the red zone and have not scored an offensive touchdown in the last two games. The Longhorns will make up their postponed district game with Melbourne on Tuesday, Oct. 18.
Coming off their bye week, Poinciana (3-2) will travel to Davenport (1-2) – a school in their second season but one that is becoming a developing rivalry for the Eagles. “Some of their coaches worked at Poinciana and they have a few players that played for us in the past,” Poinciana coach Randy Beeken said. “It’s already started to become a pretty good rivalry.”
The Broncos defeated Poinciana, 20-8, in their inaugural season in 2021.
“They have some solid athletes. Our offense is definitely going to have to play better than it has the past couple of games,” Beeken said. That offense, led by quarterback De’kwan Bradley (191 all-purpose yards per game) and receivers Perry Garrett and Donald Cumming (5 combined receiving touchdowns), have totaled just two offensive touchdowns in their last two games. In addition, the Poinciana defense must contain sophomore running back Aiden George – who is averaging more than 11 yards a carry for the Broncos.
Celebration (0-5) and Liberty (0-5) have scheduled byes this week.