By:  J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola

Ernest Nunn scored three touchdowns and Akeem Knox rushed for 102 yards and a score as the Poinciana Eagles defeated the Gateway Panthers, 28-0, on Friday night.  

It was an impressive showing on both sides of the ball for the Eagles, as they also pitched a shutout on defense – recording five quarterback sacks and eight tackles-for-loss; while forcing  three turnovers.  “I really felt that our defense had a chance to be as good as last fall’s and I still feel that way,” Poinciana coach Randy Beeken said.  “We lost a lot of playmakers on offense and our quarterback situation is certainly unsettled.  But tonight we played a back-up running back at quarterback and he threw two touchdown passes. So overall it was a good performance.”

Knox figures to play a key role in Poinciana’s offense next fall.  After playing two seasons as a backup behind the Swint brothers and several other talented backs at Osceola High, Knox transferred to Poinciana before the spring semester started and is already penciled in as the Eagles featured back this spring.

“Akeem left, Akeem right, Akeem up the middle, you are going to see a lot of him in the fall,” Beeken said.  “He is a tremendous talent and will be the focal point of our offense this year.”  Knox’s 102 yards came on just 15 carries and he sat out the last quarter and a half with tightness in his hamstring.

Nunn, who had a solid sophomore season with 385 receiving yards and five touchdowns, looks to be an emerging star for the Eagles.  He scored the Poinciana’s first touchdown in the second quarter – taking a reverse and racing 60 yards down the right sideline for a score.   In the second half, he beat Gateway deep on a 40-yard touchdown pass and then split the secondary in the fourth quarter for a 26-yard score.

Wilgance Nezius, a backup running back last year, played the entire game at quarterback.   “While the starting job at quarterback has not been decided, Wilgance did a great job in playing a new position. Regardless of what position he ends up at, he will be an important part of our team this year,” Beeken said.

Beeken added that the win was important for his team.  “When you have our history and you are trying to change the culture of the program, winning is extremely important — even if you are just talking spring games or kickoff classics.   We emphasize winning in every game we play.” Under Beeken, the Eagles won a school record eight games last season and recorded only the second winning season in the school’s 31-year history.  

There were some positives for the Panthers.

Gateway did move the ball during the game with some nice runs by Joshua Fuller and some long receptions by Yasim Mims. But practically every plus play was followed by a negative play as Gateway gave up five sacks, turned the ball over three times, had eight negative running plays and several costly penalties. “We did some good things tonight but it just seems like we would take one step forward and then two backwards.  We simply cannot keep turning the ball over.”

Roberts found some positives – including the early play of his defense.  “They really did not drive the ball down the field on us and we did create a couple of turnovers,” Roberts added. “Poinciana scored mainly on long plays where we had a breakdown or when our offense gave them a short field.  Most of the time we were pretty solid on defense, especially in the first half.”