By: J. Daniel Pearson
A playoff spot will be at stake when Osceola (2-5, 2-0) travels to Tohopekaliga (5-2, 2-0) for the Class 4 Suburban, District 10 championship game on Oct. 27, but the suspense and importance of that game is being placed on the back burner for now, as both teams have important games this week.
The Kowboys have both an enormous challenge and outstanding opportunity this week when they travel to Daytona Beach this week to face undefeated Mainland (7-0), the top ranked team in Class 3 Suburban and the second ranked team in the entire state across all classifications.
Here is a look at sports in Osceola County this Week:
Osceola (2-5) at Daytona Beach Mainland (7-0), Thursday 7 p.m.
Osceola head coach Eric Pinellas calling it the most important game of the year. “We started off poorly and there’s no doubt Mainland will be licking their chops and looking for revenge, especially after we manhandled them last year. But we are not the same team that we were at the beginning of the year, we are as healthy as we have been all season and we are coming off two great weeks of practice. We will go into this game as underdogs, but we are viewing this game as an opportunity to let everyone know we are still Osceola and team that they may have to reckon with in the post-season.”
There is another factor besides revenge from 33-7 beat down Osceola put on Mainland last year. Two weeks prior to that game, Mainland first threatened to cancel game and then suggested they might not even show up as they wanted to use the date to play a make-up district game rather than face Osceola and have to play three games in eight days. The FHSAA threatened fines if Mainland failed to honor the contract.
“I understood what they were trying to do,” Pinellas said. “But practically every team in the state last year lost a district game to a storm and had to play three games in eight days – including us. It was sort of was funny to me that they called this past week to make sure we were going to not cancel – almost insinuating that we might be afraid to show up. They are a very good team, but I think our team is pretty good too.”
Against Mainland, the Kowboys will have to contend with a defense that is allowing just over 11 points a game and a powerful running game averaging almost 240 yards on the ground led by junior Khamani Robinson.
Osceola went to 2-0 in district play last Friday with an absolute manhandling of over-matched Celebration, 56-0. Osceola scored on all seven of its offensive possessions, added a defensive touchdown and held the Storm to a minus 13 yards of total offense in the game in winning for second straight week.
Star running back Taevion Swint scored two touchdowns on just two plays before being retired for the night and numerous freshman and sophomores played significant minutes for the Kowboys. “We accomplished what we needed to accomplish. We got the win, did not play down to the competition and got some valuable and meaningful reps for a lot of young players.” (Read about that game here: https://www.positivelyosceola.com/osceola-kowboys-breeze-past-storm-turn-attention-to-mainland-and-tohopekaligas-tigers/ )
Tohopekaliga (5-2) at Harmony (1-6), Friday, 7 p.m.
Another possible revenge game not being billed as such will take place when the Longhorns host Tohopekaliga at 7 p.m. Friday at “The Ranch.”
Led by then seniors Tyler Eman and Cooper Richards, Harmony blasted the Tigers, 40-7 last season but Tohopekaliga coach Anthony Paradiso says revenge is not a motivating factor this week. “We do not pay attention to what happened last year or in the series history,” Paradiso said. “Instead we look at our own game last week, see where we made mistakes and then we worry about correcting them in getting better this week. Harmony has a ton of new players this year, we have a lot of new contributors too, so both teams have new identities and what happened last year in inconsequential to this year’s game.”
Harmony will probably have its hands full with the potent Tohopekaliga offense that has been averaging 510 yards of total offense and almost 33 points a game. With three starters missing on offense last week, the Tigers still gained 500 yards in an 18-14 win over Gulf Breeze. Still, the Tigers needed a last minute touchdown pass from Sabby Meassick to Jayden Oliver to seal the win.
“We moved the ball really well last week but we failed to finish some drives. A lot of that could be attributed to having injured players out and having others play positions they weren’t familiar with. Still, we had a lot of confidence in our offense. At gut check time, Sabby and his teammates kept their composure and got us the touchdown we needed and then our defense shut the door on their last drive.”
After 95% of his offensive production graduated last year, first-year coach Nick Lippert has seen his team struggle on offense this year. Harmony lost 26-0 to Viera last week, marking the third straight time the Longhorns failed to score.
St. Cloud (4-3) at South Lake (2-4), Friday, 7 p.m.
Winners of two straight, the Bulldogs will be looking for another win this week when they travel to Groveland to face South Lake. St. Cloud coach Mike Short said the Eagles, who went winless last year, are a much-improved team under new head coach Brad Lord.
“Brad is a good coach and has a track record of turning around teams,” Short said. “Our goal after the Osceola game was to take it one game at a time and win out. We are on track to do that, but this is a big game for us. Coach Lord will have his team ready to play.”
St. Cloud posted their fourth win of the season on Thursday, dominating Miami Garden’s TRU Prep Academy, 51-18. Quarterback Logan King fired a school-record tying six touchdown passes, including three to Owen Conner – who had more than 200 yards receiving. (Read about St. Cloud victory here: https://www.positivelyosceola.com/junior-qb-logan-king-passes-bulldogs-to-fourth-win-of-the-season-sets-school-record/ )
Celebration (1-6) at Flagler Palm Coast (2-4), Friday. 7 p.m.
Jeremy Palmer’s young Celebration team will look to improve on offense after last week’s tough game with Osceola. “We’re playing a lot of freshman and sophomores and have been overmatched by a lot of teams this year. The thing I am very encouraged about is these kids have never quit in a game and have battled regardless of the score.”
Lake Buena Vista (4-2) Poinciana (2-4), Friday, 7 p.m.
Poinciana has struggled putting together a total team effort this year and their record could be easily be reversed, as they have dropped the last two games by just one score. Last week, Poinciana lost a tough 17-14 decision to North Port (5-1), but led 14-3 at the half.
“We were playing without are starting quarterback Cameron Brown and our best running back Akeem Knox because of injuries and we still were ahead at the half. Unfortunately we simply could not get anything going in the second half,” head coach Randy Beeken said. “There’s no question in my mind that we could just as easily be 5-1 this year, but it hasn’t worked out. This week is another game against a team with a better record, but also a team I think we have the talent to beat.”
Liberty (2-5) at Lake Wales (7-0). Friday, 7 p.m.
Unfortunately this will most likely be another learning opportunity for Liberty under first year head coach Dee Hart. The Chargers lost a 62-0 decision to powerful Auburndale last week and now must face 3S state champion Lake Wales. Staying healthy will most and competing to the end will most likely be the goal for this game.
Lake Region (2-4) at Gateway (0-7), Friday, 7 p.m.
After a 41-0 loss to powerful Lake Wales last week, the Panthers finally get a home game this week. Although 2-4 on the season, Lake Region has some good athletes and may be deeper than Marlin Roberts’ young Gateway squad.
The post-season begins this week with District playoff action. Battle-tested Osceola (19-6) will be the top seed in Class 7A, District 6. That district includes Harmony, Poinciana and Tohopekaliga. Osceola receives a first round bye and will play the winner of the Harmony (13-12) vs. Cypress Creek (6-11) match in a Tuesday semifinal. Second-seeded and host Lake Nona (19-6) will receive a first round bye and will play the winner of Monday’s quarterfinal between third seeded Tohopekaliga (16-7) and Poinciana (5-8). The District Championship match will be contested on Thursday at 7 p.m.
Olympia (19-6) is the top seed in Class 7A, District 5, where sixth seeded Celebration (4-6) will play third seeded Dr. Phillips (7-9) on Monday night.
Another Osceola team expected to advance to regionals is Gateway. The Panthers (14-8) are the top seed in the Class 5A, District 6 tournament and host #8 seed Auburndale on Monday night. Liberty (2-11) is seeded seventh in the tournament and will play at #2 Davenport on Monday. Should the Panthers reach the final, they would host the district title game on Thursday night.
St. Cloud (7-17) is the fourth seed in 6A, District 7. They will host Kathleen (1-13) on Monday night and with a win, they will travel to top-seed Bartow (17-8) on Tuesday.
Last week, Osceola proved to be the dominant volleyball team in the county by sweeping through the OBC Championships (read about the Kowboys here: https://www.positivelyosceola.com/osceola-lady-kowboys-dominate-orange-belt-conference-girls-volleyball-take-home-3rd-championship-in-four-years/
Austin Tindall Park will host the Orange Belt Conference championships on Wednesday, Oct. 18. The junior varsity meet begins at 4 p.m. with the Girls Championship at 5 p.m. followed by the Boys race. Tohopekaliga has won the last two boys’ titles and Harmony has captured the last four girls’ titles, but this year’s event should be a wide open affair.
Read about Osceola County Cross Country teams here: https://www.positivelyosceola.com/race-for-orange-belt-conference-cross-country-title-could-be-wide-open-affair/
Orange Belt Conference team and individual titles will be up for grabs this week, as Royal St. Cloud Golf Club will host both the Boys’ Championship today (8 a.m.) and the Girls’ championship on Tuesday (also 8 a.m.).
St. Cloud will be highly favored to win their seventh straight OBC crown; while Celebration will try to end the Bulldogs’ four-year dominance of the Boys’ championship.
You can read more about Osceola golf teams here: https://www.positivelyosceola.com/lady-bulldogs-expected-to-continue-winning-ways-will-celebration-storm-unseat-st-cloud-bulldogs-for-boys-golf-title/