By: J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola
Osceola head coach Eric Pinellas said he did not mince any words with his team at halftime. Although the Kowboys led 24-21, Pinellas was not happy with the Deland Bulldogs was pushing his team around and told them so.
“I said if we did not starting playing better football, we would be collecting the uniforms in the morning and saying our goodbyes. We were not playing good fundamental assignment football, we were not setting the edge on defense and we kept making silly penalties. Frankly I was concerned. Fortunately we played a lot better in the second half.”
Osceola’s defense responded in the second half and the Kowboys held on to beat Deland, 30-28, and will now advance to the FHSAA Suburban 4, Region 3 semifinals on Friday night.
While the Kowboys could have used the fact that they played the entire game without injured first team all-state defensive tackle Derrick Leblanc, it did not totally explain the fact that Deland dominated the first half – rolling up 264 yards of total offense and scoring touchdowns on three of their first four possessions.
Osceola had little answer for the play of quarterback Tyron Moore and WR/RB Davon Ross. Moore led touchdown drives of 90 and 78 yards, scoring on a pair of runs and Ross accounted for 159 all-purpose yards including a 53-yard touchdown reception as Deland held on to the ball for almost 19 minutes and limited the Kowboys to just four first-half possessions.
But despite the lopsided advantages in yards and possession time, Osceola actually led at halftime 24-21 thanks to the running of Taevion Swint and two long kick returns by Elijah Jenkins. Swint got things going on the Kowboys first possession with a 56-yard touchdown run. And Jenkins returned a kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown. Gunner Holland threw a long scoring pass to Bo Mascoe and after Moore’s second touchdown of the half, Jenkins returned a second kickoff 75 yards to set up Devin Calhoun’s 28-yard field goal for the three-point lead at intermission.
Osceola’s defense would make the difference in the second half.
Four defensive stops, that included an interception and two turnovers on downs in the red zone, kept Deland off the scoreboard. Swint would break off an 87-yard run and cap it off with a 1-yard touchdown run to give the Kowboys a 30-21 lead heading into the final 11 minutes.
The game appeared to be over, when Osceola’s defense stuffed Moore on a fourth and goal play from the four with 2:11 remaining – but such was not the case. With just one timeout remaining, Deland stuffed Osceola on three straight running plays to force a punt with 28 seconds remaining.
Osceola barely got the kick off and Moore needed just one play to hit Ross on a 30-yard scoring pass to make it 30-28 with 16 seconds remaining and setting up a surreal finish where Deland would get four chances at an on-sides kick and a miracle finish.
The first attempt was flagged for an off-sides penalty by the kicking team. A second attempt was stopped by an inadvertent official’s whistle. Deland would recover the third attempt, but again was called for both an illegal formation and an illegal downfield block on play. Osceola would recover the final attempt.
“Since the first attempt did not go 10 yards, I simply thought we could decline the penalty and take the ball,” Osceola coach Eric Pinellas said. “But they told me that was not an option and frankly I did not get a good explanation of the second and third do-overs. I’m just glad we hung on because I did not want to give them another shot at winning the game.”
The victory sets up a rematch in the Suburban 4, Region 3 semifinals where the Kowboys (8-3) will host the Treasure Coast Titans (4-6) at Markus Paul Stadium at 7 p.m. on Friday, Treasure Coast earned its way to the game with a 35-8 first round win over Martin County and it will be a rematch of Osceola’s season-opening 14-5 win over the Titans on Aug. 26 of this year.
“Not putting any stock on that game, Treasure Coast is obviously a better team than they were in August,” Pinellas said. “What I know is they run the same type of offense we faced tonight and that makes them a dangerous club. We need to put together a good week of practice and get ready for another battle.”
SCORE BY QUARTERS
Deland 7 14 0 7 — 28
Osceola 7 16 0 7 — 30
O: Taevion Swint 56 Run (Devin Calhoun kick)
D: Tyron Moore 8 run (Austin Barbarow kick)
O: Bo Mascoe 54 pass from Gunner Holland (kick failed)
D: Tyron Moore 2 run (Barbarow kick)
O: Elijah Jenkins 99 kick return (Calhoun kick)
D: Davon Ross 53 pass from Moore (Barbarow kick)
O: Calhoun 28 FG
O: Swint 1 run (Calhoun kick)
D: Ross 30 pass from Moore (Barbarow kick)