By: J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola
Osceola dominated all three phases of the game – winning a championship in the process – in going on the road and defeating regional top-seed Vero Beach, 31-7, in the Class 4S, Regional 3 Championship game on Friday night.
“We had a great week of practice and I came into this game with a lot of confidence in our team,” Osceola coach Eric Pinellas said. “We challenged both our offensive line and defensive backs this week and they responded to that challenge. About the only negative tonight is that we left some scoring opportunities on the field in the first half.”
The win moves Osceola to 10-3 on the season and sends them into next Friday’s 4S, State Semifinal game with undefeated Lakeland. The Dreadnaughts (12-0) are ranked #1 in the state in 4S and punched their ticket to the state semis and with a convincing 41-6 win over Lake Minneola. The game will be a rematch of a Week 3 regular season game, won by Lakeland 25-23.
Osceola would never trail on Friday, taking a 7-0 lead on just the second play of the game. After the opening kickoff, quarterback David Buggs hit TJ Massey on a 38-yard pass and one play later, Taevion Swint broke loose on a 38-yard touchdown run.
But the Kowboys offense would struggle to score the rest of the half. A long drive to the Vero Beach 10-yard line stalled on a false start and when Devin Calhoun missed a 35-yard field goal it remained 7-0
After tying the score on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Jake Whiteley to Vandrevius Jacobs in the second quarter; Osceola would see a 65-yard punt return for touchdown by Jakyri Watson called back by an illegal block that occurred almost 40 yards away from the return. Osceola would later drive the length of the field and have a first and goal at the 10, but after being charged with a false start and the hit with a delay of game penalty, the Kowboys would have to settle for 35-yard field goal from Calhoun and a 10-7 halftime lead.
“Because we scored so fast early, I’m not sure whether we just got lackadaisical or whether we relaxed a little but I expressed my displeasure to the team that we were only up by three at the half,” Pinellas said. “I think they took it to heart.”
Osceola got an immediate stop to start the third period and needed just six plays to go 71-yards and take a two-score lead at 17-7. Swint played a major role in that drive, breaking off runs of 34 and 13 yards before catching a perfectly setup screen pass and running 19 yards for a score on a third and 10 play.
Three series later, Ja’Keem Jackson all but put the game away when he stepped in front a Whiteley pass and raced 69 yards with the interception down the right side line for a score. Early in the fourth quarter, Osceola scored again as Buggs fumbled a snap, picked it up and hit Bo Mascoe in stride for a 67-yard touchdown.
Still it was the Osceola defense that set the tone all night.
They forced four turnovers, recorded four sacks and limited Vero Beach to less than 200 yards of total offense on the night. More impressively, they limited Florida State commit Jacobs – who came into the night with 1350 receiving yards and 19 touchdowns – to less than 40 yards receiving on the night.
“We noticed on film that a lot of teams were playing off of him and basically giving him a free release,” Pinellas said. “He would then just run short crossing routes, catch the ball and turn a short pass into a long gain. I challenged our guys to press him and make him fight to get off the line. There’s no doubt he a D-1 talent but we have some D-1 talent in our defensive backfield and did a great job of shutting him down.”
SCORE BY QUARTERS
OSCEOLA 7 3 14 7–31
VERO BEACH 0 7 0 0–7
O: Taevion Swint 38 run (Devin Calhoun kick)
VB: Vandrevius Jacobs 10 pass from Jake Whiteley (Jesse Lewis kick)
O: Calhoun 35 FG
O: Swint 19 pass from Buggs (Calhount kick)
O: Ja’Keem Jackson 69 interception return (Calhoun kick)
O: Bo Mascoe 67 pass from Buggs (Calhoun kick)