Last week was tough overall for Osceola County Varsity Football teams, as seven of the eight lost their season openers. Only Tohopekaliga, behind the six touchdown passes by their sophomore Sabby Meassick, came away victorious with a 56-0 win over Liberty.
A look at this week’s games and last week’s action:
OSCEOLA (0-1) at Sanford Seminole (1-0), Friday, 7 p.m.
A slightly beat up Osceola High team jumps out of the frying pan into the fire this week when they travel to 4 Metro state power and long-time rival Seminole on Friday night. Seminole defeated Osceola for the 7A State Championship a few years back and the two have played numerous regular season games in recent years.
It will be a particularly tough test for the Kowboys, especially if they remain without the services of talented junior running back Taevion Swint, who suffered and off-season knee injury and has yet been cleared to return to the playing field.
Osceola opened the season on Friday with a 22-8 loss to Treasure Coast – a team they defeated twice last year in a pair of defensive struggles. In addition to the absence of Swint, the Kowboys played the game without talented H-Back Hayden Dekle, and then lost promising middle linebacker Elijah Melendez to a season-ending injury during the game (broken foot). Starting defensive back Larenz Walker would also leave the game with a possible concussion. In addition, offensive lineman Marcus Ferrar was limited all week with an illness.
“A slow start on defense really hurt us,” Coach Eric Pinellas said. “I thought we fought back pretty well and when Jeff Sinophat broke a 32-yard run to make it a 14-8 game, the momentum really shifted to us. Offensive consistency ended up being the real issue. Our offensive line struggled more than I thought it would and a few series after we cut the gap, we give up a sack, fumble, scoop and score and that pretty much spelled the end of the game,” Pinellas said.
“We will regroup this week and get ready for another stern test Friday night against Seminole.
Ft. Meade (1-0) at TOHOPEKALIGA (1-0), Friday 7 p.m.
Tigers head coach Anthony Paradiso did not have much to say after the Tigers convincing 56-0 win over Liberty. The entire second half was played under a running clock and Paradiso noted his team only ran 26 plays on the night – hardly enough to get a solid reading on what he has this season. “The game was what it was, I do know we have to get better on a week-to-week basis.”
Meassick picked up from the same fast start he had last year, he was 14 of 21 for 292 yards in his opener. Naeem Woulard (5-135-2 TD) and Tre Punter (3-53-2 TD) were his main targets. Senior Cherandy Duval rushed for 35 yards on just two carries – scoring on a 26-yard run.
The second year Tiger coach did have some praise for his defense. “We got after it pretty good, forced some turnovers and played solid assignment football.”
The Tigers should receive a tougher test this Friday with the arrival of Ft. Meade, a 2 Suburnan school from Polk County. They opened their season with a solid 28-14 win over Sarasota and made the state playoffs last season. “To tell the truth, I don’t really know a lot about them,” Paradiso said. “We will basically approach this game with the idea of just trying to execute our game plan and not worry about what they do.”
CELEBRATION (0-1) at HARMONY (0-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
One more county team will get back into the winning column this week when Celebration travels to Harmony for a 7 p.m. game at “The Ranch.” The Longhorns opened their season with a tough 46-3 loss at home to Eustis, while Celebration was shut out at home against Davenport Ridge.
Heading into the season, defense appeared to be the strength of the Longhorn team after graduation subtracted nearly 95% of their offense including all-county running backs Tyler Emans and Cooper Richards. The Horns defense played well early, recording eight tackles for loss but eventually wore out as its offense couldn’t capitalize and sustain drives – turning the ball over five times and giving Eustis positive field position.
The Longhorns did have five scrimmage plays over 10 yards; Jeremy Hilliard, one of few starters who saw any snaps on last year’s senior-laden offense, carried 11 times for 56 yards to lead Harmony. While freshman kicker Brayden Buehler got Harmony on the board in the fourth quarter with a 31-yard field goal.
Celebration coach Jeremy Palmer said he was proud of the effort his over-matched and under-experienced team gave in the loss to Ridge. “We’re playing a ton of young kids and there’s always a chance that the deeper, more-experienced teams are going to wear you down. We will continue to grow and fight.”
Palmer said the Harmony game would be another tough test. “I was just watching their film of the Eustis game and although they lost they are still Harmony. They are a physical team that will take it to you and it will be another stern test for our young team.”
Pine Ridge at ST. CLOUD, Friday 7:30 p.m. (Austin Tindall Park)
St. Cloud will be looking for its first win of the season when they host Pine Ridge at Austin Tindall Park on Friday night. Pine Ridge appears to be a much better team that the squad that went 0-10 last year and lost to St. Cloud, 47-7. The Panthers opened their season with a 19-7 win over Winter Springs.
“They won their first game in three years and we certainly are in no position to take them lightly,” Bulldogs coach Mike Short said. “The goal this week will be to clean up our mistakes, win a game and get back to.500”
St. Cloud went on the road last week and dropped a 41-12 decision to a solid Baron Collier school. “It was a strange opening game, it was senior night for them and it brought a back crowd, it almost felt like a playoff game,” Short noted.
St. Cloud moved the ball offensively, as Logan King completed 24 of 42 passes for 200 yards and a score. Alex Springs was his main target. The junior transfer from Osceola grabbed 11 balls for 126 yards and a touchdown. Running back TJ Griffin had a nice game on the ground with 50 yards on 13 carries, he also added 39 reception yards.
“We got off to a slow start on defense and fell way behind. It was 20-9 in the second quarter and we got an interception and drove down to the 15 and came away empty. That was sort of the tipping point in the game for us.”
Orlando Christian Prep (1-0) at LIBERTY (0-1), Friday, 7 p.m.
Knowing he would be in total rebuild this year, Dee Hart will take his young Chargers squad into Friday night’s game against Orlando Christian Prep. Liberty dropped its opener to Tohopekaliga last week, as five turnovers cost his club against the more experienced Tigers.
BYE WEEKS: GATEWAY and POINCIANA
Both the Panthers and Eagles will take the week off, after both teams dropped their season openers last Friday. Gateway lost a 24-0 decision to Lake Buena Vista; while Poinciana gave up a 14-12 fourth quarter lead to Nature Coast, dropping a 35-14 decision.
It was a game Gateway coach Randy Beeken knew would be a tough contest but one he felt they could have won. “We have a new quarterback and new players at several key positions, right now we just have to establish an identity,” Beeken said. “I thought our defense played pretty well but that go ahead score they had in the fourth sort of knocked the wind out of our sails.”
Ahkeem Knox, a transfer from Osceola, had a big game for the Eagles, rushing for 92 yards and a pair of scores.
Big shout out to our community business partners, who join us in supporting the players, coaches, volunteers, fans and bands that make Friday Nights in the Osceola County School District a positively awesome experience every week. Thank you to Orlando Health, Kissimmee Utility Authority, Huff’s Quality Air Conditioning, the Osceola County Fair, KVLS, Osceola County Clerk & Comptroller, Kelvin Soto, Starling Chevrolet Buick GMC in St. Cloud, and Land Title Professionals.