Dan PearsonBy:  J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola

A week after a close but disappointing loss to third-ranked 4A Cocoa, the Osceola Kowboys return to action this Friday when they travel to Tohopekaliga for a 7 p.m. game.   

The Kowboys, who have state title aspirations, will be heavy favorites in the game.  Toho comes into the contest with a 1-1 record after last week’s 14-10 win over Gateway.  The teams have met just once before, with Osceola shutting out the Tigers, 29-0, a year ago.

But Tohopekaliga is coming off a year where they were hit heavily by graduation and saw the transfer of several talented players to other schools.   They lost their season opener 71-0 to Lake Mineola, before evening their season record against the Panthers.

Osceola’s loss to Cocoa was a tough one to swallow. 

The Kowboys fell behind 14-0 early before rallying.  A Randy Swint touchdown and a 94-yard kickoff return by Bo Mascoe cut the gap to 21-20.  But Osceola had a missed extra point in the game and turned the ball over twice in the second half.   A last-ditch drive to win also stalled at the Cocoa 35-yard line.

“They obviously are a very good team, but we felt we had our chances to win,” Head Coach Eric Pinellas said.  “Our goal will be to clean up our mistakes that we made last week.”

In other action, Harmony (1-0) will go for its second win of the season when it travels to Palm Bay (1-0) to take on the Pirates in a 7 p.m.  Harmony used a pair of rushing touchdowns from Tyler Emans and a field goal from Kevin Lavigne as time expired to beat a solid Heritage team, 17-14, in their season opener.

Head Coach Don Simon, who missed the game after testing positive for Covid, was back at practice this week and said his team will have to play better against the Pirates, 52-7 winners over Space Coast.

“They are big, athletic and very well coached,” Simon noted of this week’s opponents.  “It may start sounding like a broken record, but our keys to success will be to run the ball on them, control the clock and limit their opportunities offensively.”

St. Cloud, 1-0, will also be looking for their second win of the season when they host Sebastian River on Friday night at 7:30 p.m.  Although the River Sharks lost 28-0 to Merritt Island in their opener last week, Bulldogs Head Coach Bryan Smart said Sebastian River will present significant challenges to his team.

“They played a really good Merritt Island team in their opener and they have some pretty good athletes and are well-coached,” Smart said.  “We are certainly going to have to do a lot more on offense this week to have a chance.”

St. Cloud allowed just one touchdown a week ago and edged Akelynn’s Angels Christian Academy, 7-6.  In that game, which was added to the schedule after a contest with Liberty was cancelled due to covid tracing issues, the Bulldogs fell behind 6-0 in the first quarter but took the lead on Isaac Nieves 13-yard touchdown run and Wyatt Castellucci extra point in the second quarter.

Defensively, St. Cloud played a great game. 

Behind Noah Carr’s 10 tackles, including four tackles behind the line of scrimmage, the Bulldogs defense limited Akelynn to 124 total yards, recorded one takeaway, one quarterback sack and 10 tackles-for-loss.  “We knew our defense would have to carry this team, especially early in the year,” Smart said.  “We got that effort last week but we can’t rely on it to happen every week.”

Poinciana, who dropped a 22-55 decision to Celebration in its season opener last week, travels to Mulberry Panthers (1-1) for a 7 p.m. game.   Eagles head coach Randy Beeken says he knows little about this week’s opponent.  “Just got their game film from last week,”  Beeken says.  “They appear to be a solid team.  Our main concern is cleaning up our mistakes from a week ago and trying to get better.”

Poinciana showed some promise last week – especially on offense —  but dropped passes, missed tackles and turnovers played a key part in their loss to the Storm.  “We’re a young team, but we are going to have to grow up in a hurry,” Beeken added.  “We started five or six freshmen last year and were playing without our punter and first team kicker.  We got a great effort from the kids, but the mistakes killed any chance we had of winning.”

Celebration’s 55 points was the second highest total in school history.  The Storm received huge games from running back Oneil Senatus (255 rushing yards, 3 touchdowns) and quarterback Dylan Davis (182 passing yards, four touchdowns).

The Storm had a scheduled bye week this week but have managed to move their week 11 game with Lake Region—who also had a bye week —  to this Friday.  This will allow the Storm several weeks to find a replacement game for its season opener with Gateway that was cancelled due to covid.  Lake Region is also 1-0 on the season following its 20-19 win over Lake Placid.

Liberty, 28-14 losers to Haines City, returns to action this week with a 7 p.m. game at Gateway.

Jeremiah Pierre-Louis threw for one touchdown and ran for another but also threw three interception in the loss.

Friday’s Games

Osceola at Tohopekaliga, 7 p.m.

Sebastian River at St. Cloud, 7:30 p.m.

Lake Region at Celebration, 7:30 p.m.

Harmony at Palm Bay, 7 p.m.

Liberty at Gateway, 7 p.m.

Poinciana at Mulberry, 7:30 p.m.

Big shout out to our community business partners; Orlando HealthPrescriptions Unlimited, Huff’s Quality Air ConditioningTuffy Tire & Auto Service in St, CloudBig John’s Rockin’ BarbecueKissimmee Utility Authority, and Handyman Hardware.