Dan PearsonBy:  J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola

Osceola’s offense struggled but its defense was stout as the Kowboys opened the 2022 season with a 14-5 win over Treasure Coast, a team that won 10 games last year and advanced to the Class 8A semifinals.

“It was a good opening test for us,” Osceola Head Coach Eric Pinellas said. “We were a little shaky on defense early, jumping offsides and getting out of position, but when you can keep your opponent –especially one as talented as Treasure Coast — out of the end zone you have to be pleased.”

Starting four division-one commits on defense, it was a player who was not even on the dress list roster who stood out the most. Junior defensive back Jalen Bell had a huge game for the Kowboys, making four tackles-for-losses, adding a pair of quarterback sacks and forcing a fumble.

“He was a kid who didn’t play much last year but came into spring ball and was creating some havoc on our first team offense. He came up to me after the spring game and flat out told me he was going to hit the weight room hard this summer and predicted that I would have a hard time keeping him off the field in the fall. He certainly delivered on that promise tonight,” Pinellas said.

Osceola’s defense did struggle early, giving up five first downs on the Titans first possession as they marched down the field. But the defense stiffened in the red zone and Treasure Coast had to settle for a 28-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.

Taevion Swint would give the Kowboys the lead right back, however, as he returned the ensuing kickoff 85 yards for a touchdown. The Titans countered with a pair of first downs on their next possession and the first quarter expired without Osceola running a single play from scrimmage.

The Titans second drive would stall but an excellent pooch punt was downed at the Kowboy one-yard- line and one play later a bad quarterback exchange led to a safety as the lead was cut to 7-5. From there, Osceola would muster its only scoring drive of the game. A 24-yard run by Elijah Melendez set up a 1-yard scoring run by Swint as Osceola took a 14-5 lead into the locker room.

Taking the opening kickoff of the third quarter, Osceola had a chance to put the game away early when Swint broke loose on a 52-yard run down to the Titans 5-yard line. But newcomer David Buggs had his pass intercepted in the end zone to end the threat.

Neither team would crack the red zone for the remainder of the game, thanks in part to some outstanding plays by Bell—a slender athlete who lined up at safety, outside linebacker and edge rusher during the game.

After the Titans picked up a first down at midfield, Bell stuffed bruising running back Emonte Brown for a 4-yard loss and then sacked quarterback George Roberts for a minus seven-yards a play later.

On the Titans next possession, he sacked Roberts for an eight-yard loss and then separated running back Rod Taylor from the ball a play later. Osceola recovered and ran out the clock.

Although pleased with the win, Pinellas admitted his offense did struggle. “Part of it was we didn’t go on offense until the second quarter, but we were also a little sloppy out there. That’s going to happen in a first game, especially when we lost the exhibition game to weather last week. We have three really good running backs and some playmakers on the outside.