Heading into Monday night’s game with Osceola, St. Cloud head coach Mike Short knew his team would have to dominate possession with the passing game, avoid mistakes and limit the Kowboys opportunities in order to pull an upset. And although the Bulldogs accomplished those things in short spurts, it was not nearly enough as the Kowboys routed St. Cloud, 42-3, in the 99th edition of one of Florida’s longest rivalries.
“We knew going in that it would be nearly impossible to run against their front four,” Short said. “We knew we would have to move the ball through the air, play mistake free football and move the chains against them. Early in the game we did some of that, but then the turnovers and mental mistakes took over. We gave them a short field way too many times in the first half and they took advantage of it.”
Overall, the Kowboys average starting position on eight first-half drives was the St. Cloud 30. Osceola converted six of those drives into quick touchdowns to take a 42-0 halftime lead. Those short fields started on Osceola’s first possession when Taevion Swint returned a punt 60 yards to the St. Cloud 20. Five plays later, Swint scored from the two to make it a 7-0 lead.
Elijah Palmero would then intercept Logan King and quarterback David Buggs needed just one play to make it 14-0 when he hit Aljah Jenkins on a 19-yard scoring pass.
Sophomore linebacker Jalen Bell would then set up Osceola’s next two scores. Bell blocked a punt to set up a two-play drive with Buggs hitting TJ Massey on a 27-yard scoring pass. On St. Cloud’s next possession, Bell intercepted King on the 25 and Buggs again needed just one play to find Terry Cruz on a 25-yard touchdown pass to make it 28-0.
Osceola’s offensive onslaught was momentarily stalled on their next two possessions as the Bulldogs forced two turnovers, but the Kowboys would up the lead to 35-0 at the half as Buggs completed a 33-yard pass to Cruz and Swint covered the final yard for a touchdown.
With the 35-point lead, the entire second half was played under running clock rules.
Osceola would take the second half kickoff and Swint would race 63 yards for a touchdown on the third play of the quarter to make it a 42-0 lead. “He’s a real special player,” Short said of the Osceola back, that finished the game with three touchdowns and 129 yards on just 12 carries.
Buggs completed six of 10 for 131 yards and three touchdowns and Osceola averaged almost nine yards per play in gaining 260 yards on just 32 offensive plays.
St. Cloud’s lone points came in the fourth quarter when St. Cloud quarterback Logan King completed a 50-yard pass to Vadeil Rivera and Adrian Gonzalez-Lopez booted a 40-yard field goal. For the game, King completed 10 of 25 passes for 157 yards but he was intercepted twice and was sacked five times.
The win pushes Osceola to 4-3 on the season (2-0 in district play) and sets up a big non-district game home game with Daytona Beach-Mainland (5-1) on Friday night. “Overall, I was pleased with how we came out tonight and took care of business,” Osceola coach Eric Pinellas said. “We now have to get ready for a talented Mainland team on Friday. “They have a big quarterback who is pretty good at scrambling around and buying time and they have two really talented receivers. It should be a good challenge for us.” Mainland quarterback Demarcus Creecy has completed 74% of his passes this year. His main targets include Ajai Harrell (34 receptions – 594 yards – 9 touchdowns) and James Randle (19-374-4).
St. Cloud falls to 5-3 overall and 0-2 in the district. They have a bye week on Friday and will host Celebration (0-6, 0-2) on Oct. 28 before completing their season Nov. 4 with their annual rivalry game with Harmony.
“We have some outstanding senior leadership on this team, but we are playing an awful lot of sophomores and freshman,” Short added. “We still have a chance to win seven games this season and that would be a tremendous accomplishment for a young team. We were over-matched in talent tonight but this team never quit and fought to the end.”