By: J. Daniel Pearson for Positively Osceola
With no school in session Friday in Osceola County, several teams will be playing tonight as Week 8 action gets under way. Here is a look at this week’s games and last week’s action.
Gulf Breeze (2-4) at Tohopekaliga (4-2), Thursday, 7 p.m.
An inter-regional matchup of 4S teams will take place on Thursday as Tohopekaliga hosts Gulf Breeze at 7 p.m. Despite having a losing record, Gulf Breeze was still ranked in the top 50 of 4S teams in last week’s FHSAA poll; while Tohopekaliga was ranked 30th.
Tohopekaliga is coming off its second loss of the season, dropping a close 35-28 game to undefeated Orlando Christian Prep (7-0). In that game, Toho jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead on a pair of Julian Nasco from Sabby Meassick touchdown passes, but OCP roared back to tie the game after one quarter. The Tigers would take the lead 21-20 on Meassick’s third touchdown pass of the half, but OCP would go ahead for good on a Cameron Kurzon touchdown pass just before halftime to take a 26-21 advantage into the locker room.
OCP would push the lead to 14 points midway through the fourth quarter, before a late Tohopekaliga touchdown cut the final margin to seven. Still, Meassick had another big day. The sophomore quarterback, who leads the state of Florida in several passing categories, threw for 326 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. Those numbers pushed his season totals to 181 for 248 (73.0%) for 2460 yards and 30 touchdowns.
TRU Prep Academy (1-4) at St. Cloud (3-3), Thursday, 7 p.m.
Athletics Director Bryan Smart was able to add this game after Bulldogs the Bulldogs had its Week 2 game cancelled because of inclement weather. St. Cloud coach Mike Short admitted he knew little about this week’s opponent. “All I know is they are from the Miami area and I am going to have to assume that they have athletes,” Short said. “We’ll scout the film the best we can but mostly worry about executing our game plan.”
With St. Cloud’s new turf field under construction, the game will be played at Austin Tindall Park.
St. Cloud is coming off an impressive 46-0 win over Gateway last Friday night. Terrence “TJ” Griffin rushed for 133 yards and three touchdowns in the win; while the St. Cloud defense forced three turnovers. You can read about the Bulldogs big win here: https://www.positivelyosceola.com/st-cloud-evens-season-record-with-big-win-over-gateway/
Viera (3-3) at Harmony (1-5), Thursday, 7 p.m.
Harmony will be looking to break a four-game losing streak when its hosts Viera at 7 p.m. Thursday at “The Ranch.” It’ been a rough first season for Coach Nick Lippert, after Harmony graduated 25 seniors from last year’s playoff team – including almost all of its offensive production.
Other than a 33-point effort in a lost to Wiregrass Ranch, the Longhorns have been shutout in four of their last five games including a 40-0 loss to Hagerty last week. To win, Harmony must slow down the Viera passing game – which is averaging more than 220 yards per game. Zack Pillow (26 receptions -318 yards-5 TD) and Eric Nelson (27-351-6) have been the top targets of quarterback Chase Cromartie.
Liberty (2-4) at Auburndale (6-1), Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Like Gateway, Liberty will take a huge step up in competition this week when it also travels to Polk County to face Auburndale (5-1). Liberty is coming off their bye week after defeating Gateway two weeks ago for their second consecutive victory.
Head Coach Dee Hart understands his team will be big underdogs this week but welcomes the chance to play the Bloodhounds. “They have the type of program we aspire to get to,” Hart says. “What I will be looking for is that our team goes out and plays hard from start to finish. If that happens, the score will not matter.”
Taking over a team that went 0-10 and was outscored 453-12 during the 2022 season, the Chargers under Hart have already won two games this year and have scored 87 points.
Poinciana (2-4) at Northport (4-1), Friday, 7:30 p.m.
The Eagles look to snap a two-game losing streak when they play at Northport (4-1) Friday night. Despite Northport’s 4-1 mark, Poinciana coach Randy Beeken believes his team matches up with their opponent. “Offensive consistency, which in all honesty has been a problem for us this year, will be the key. If we get the defensive effort we did last week against Davenport and get any consistency at all out of our offense, I like our chances.”
Offensive consistency was a problem in last week’s 14-6 loss to Davenport but Beeken said that at least the officials were consistent. “We were whistled for 16 penalties for 138 yards and they were called for 19 and 212 yards,” Beeken said. “I have never seen a high school game like that in my life where 35 penalties were called for 350 yards. It was next to impossible for either team to get any rhythm going when a penalty was being called just about every other play. It seemed like every positive play we had ended up being called back.”
Poinciana’s lone touchdown came on a 70-yard pass from Cameron Brown to Ernest Nunn.
Gateway (0-6) at Lake Wales (6-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
The Panthers will have their hands full on Friday when they travel to Polk County to face undefeated Lake Wales (6-0) in a Class 3S, District 8 game. Lake Wales is on top of the district standings with a 2-0 record and has allowed just over four points per game (27 points in six games) and has pitched three shutouts this season, including a 27-0 win over Lake Gibson last week.
An already thin Gateway squad will most likely be without quarterback Markis Hill, who left the St. Cloud game in the second quarter with a possible concussion. In that loss to the Bulldogs, running backs Christian Charity and Joshua Fuller had productive nights – each rushing for more than 60 yards.
“Obviously Lake Wales is one of the top teams in the state in this classification,” Gateway coach Marlin Roberts said. “We will get ready and hopefully play hard.”
Celebration (1-5) at Osceola (1-5), Friday, 7 p.m.
The records are the same but that does not put these two teams on the same level. Traditional state-power Osceola has had a rough year by their standards, but one has to consider this has been an injury-riddled team that has played a ridiculously tough schedule that has included defending state champion Lakeland, former state champions Jones and Seminole, along with state power Treasure Coast. All those teams are expected to make the playoffs this season. Jeremy Palmer’s young and inexperienced Storm team’s lone victory has come against 0-7 Space Coast. While this game is a mismatch on paper, Osceola must still win if it wants to remain undefeated in 4S, District 10 and keep its post-season playoff hopes alive.
Both teams are coming off a bye week with Osceola beating St. Cloud (49-3) two weeks ago and Celebration dropping a 20-17 decision to Liberty.
The Orange Belt Conference team and individual championships will be determined next week at Royal St. Cloud Golf Club. The girls’ tournament will be Monday, Oct. 16 at 8 a.m. with the boys’ tournament on Tuesday, Oct. 17, also at 8 am. St. Cloud will be heavily favored to win the girls title; while the Bulldogs are expected to battle Celebration for the boys’ championship. You can read a preview here: https://www.positivelyosceola.com/lady-bulldogs-expected-to-continue-winning-ways-will-celebration-storm-unseat-st-cloud-bulldogs-for-boys-golf-title/
District meets are next for county swimming teams. Harmony swept last week’s Orange Belt Conference titles with the Longhorn boys winning for a second straight year and the girls winning for the fourth straight time and ninth time in 10 years. You can read about the Longhorns’ impressive showing here: https://www.positivelyosceola.com/harmony-sweeps-boys-and-girls-obc-swimming-championships-first-two-team-titles-in-obc-race/