By:  J. Daniel Pearson for Positively Osceola

For a 17th consecutive year, the Osceola Kowboys are headed to the state football playoffs.  They got there on Friday night, beating Tohopekaliga in dominating fashion, 38-0, to claim the Class 4S, District 10 Championship.  

“I thought we were just trying to be a little too fancy in the first half,” Osceola Coach Eric Pinellas said about his team that was clinging to a narrow 10-0 at intermission.  “Give them some credit, they were running a lot of blitzes and pinching their linebackers from the outside and unfortunately we were running right into that defense.  In the second half, we just decided to get physical and run right at them.”

The strategy worked to perfection.

Osceola Kowboys
Osceola Kowboys
Osceola Kowboys
Osceola Kowboys
Tohopekaliga Tigers
Osceola Kowboys

Osceola took the opening kickoff in the half and drove inside the Tohopekaliga 30 before the drive stalled after a false start and a negative running play.  Pinellas made the decision to punt on fourth down from the Toho 34 — a decision that would pay huge dividends for the Kowboys.

With the Tigers starting from their own 16-yard line, quarterback Sabby Meassick misfired on three consecutive passes and ensuing punt traveled just 12 yards to set Osceola up on the Toho 28.  Five plays later QB Cam Brown ran it in from the two and Osceola led, 17-0.

After that, things would rapidly go downhill from there for the Tigers.

On the ensuing possession, the Osceola defense recorded back-to-back quarterback sacks, Meassick missed on a third down pass and another shanked punt gave the Kowboys possession on the Toho 8 yard line.  From there, Elijah Hickson would score on the first play to make it 24-0.

Hickson, who replaced the injured Taevion Swint early in the third quarter, would finish the game with 125 rushing yards on 17 carries.  “He’s a talented runner who unfortunately plays the same position and is in the same class as Taevion,” Pinellas said.  “He understands his role though and came through big time tonight.”

From that point, Osceola would control both sides of the ball – with Alijah Jenkins and Zion Mathews each tacking on rushing touchdowns for the 38-0 final.

Osceola second-half offensive explosion was quite a contrast to the first half, as both teams struggled.  Osceola scored on its first possession on 13-yard touchdown run by Swint and Adam El Baraka booted a 30-yard field goal on their second possession to build a 10-0 lead; but the Kowboys finished the half with under 100 yards of offense and came up empty in their other two possessions.

Tohopekaliga’s best chance to score in the half came late in the second quarter when WR Naeem Woulard completed a flanker option pass to Tre Punter for 40 yards.  Meassick would complete two quick passes for 20 yards but on the final play of the half, Taylor Domres missed on a 40-yard field goal.

Still, Osceola’s 10-first half points was all the offense they would need. 

Its defense limited Tigers sophomore standout quarterback Meassick to a 15 for 33 night for 90 yards with two sacks and an interception and the Tigers offense was held to just 126 yards of total offense on the night as the Kowboys recorded their second shutout of the season.

Osceola (3-6) travels to West Orange (3-6) for its season finale next Friday and then will have to wait for the final rankings to see who they will meet in a 4S, Region 3 playoff game.  Inside that region, four district champions and four at-large teams are selected for the playoffs and the teams will be seeded 1-8.  If Osceola is paired with an at-large team, they would host a first round game at Markus Paul Stadium.  If they are face a higher ranked district champion in the quarterfinals, they would play of the road. 

Tohopekaliga (5-4) wraps its season next week at Haines City.