By J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola
Heading into next week’s regular-season opener with St. Cloud, first-year head coach Eric Pinellas had just one question, how would his offensive line – after graduating four seniors from last year – hold up against a tough 2021 schedule.
If Friday’s 28-0 win over Lake Nona is any indication, the answer may just be pretty well.
With four new sophomore starters and returning junior Jimarion McCrimon on the line, the Kowboys piled up 457 yards of total offense and coasted to an easy victory.
“The offensive line is still a work in progress, but I thought they did a pretty nice job tonight against a talented team,” Pinellas said. “They gave our quarterbacks time to throw and opened some holes for our backs. It’s just one pre-season game but I thought they did well.”
Osceola, which made it all to the way to the FHSAA Class 8A Championship game last year before losing to undefeated Sanford Seminole, returns practically all their other starters on both sides of the ball and definitely has championship aspirations this year.
And that talent was on full display against the Lions.
Quarterback Chad Mascoe completed 9 of 14 passes for 187 yards and three touchdowns in the game, tossing scoring passes of 60, 6 and 9 yards to three different receivers. Mascoe also rushed for a team-leading 86 yards.
But he was not the only star on offense for the Kowboys.
Senior running back Ja’Randy Swint rushed for 65 yards, CJ Walls ran for 47 yards and a touchdown; while receiver Ja’Keem Jackson caught a 60-yard scoring pass and had one other long completion called back for offensive pass interference. Basketball standout Chris Combs caught a touchdown pass and sophomore Gunner Holland–who won a state wrestling championship for the Kowboys as a freshman– scored the other touchdown.
While the Kowboys’ offense was hitting on all cylinders, the defense was equally stout. Led by defensive tackles Derrick LeBlanc and John Walker, the Osceola defense put all sorts of pressure on the Lion’s quarterbacks –recording five sacks and numerous hurries.
The defense limited Lake Nona to just 25 net yards in the first half and did not allow them inside the Osceola 40 yard line for the game in pitching the shutout. “Our success this year on defense will definitely be dependent on getting that type of pressure on the opposing quarterback,” Pinellas said. “When they do that, it is going to make things a lot easier for our defensive backfield and create turnover opportunities.”
For LeBlanc, it was business as usual. “We were excited to be out there tonight because it gave us an opportunity to hit someone other than a teammate,” LeBlanc said. “For a first time out, we did well but the games start counting next week and we’re going to work hard and get ready.”
Even the kicking game, where the Kowboys graduated all-county kicker/punter Spencer Richards, looked solid. Adrian Bermudez hit all four extra points and had a couple of touchbacks on kickoff. “If anything, I had some concern with the fact we got a little sloppy with securing the ball. We forced a fumble, gained possession but then fumbled it back to them on the return. We also fumbled after a nice run. Those are things that we just need to be a little more careful with, but overall, it was a good warmup game for us,” Pinellas said.
Osceola opens the regular season with the 98th meeting with the St. Cloud Bulldogs. The Kowboys have dominated the series of later, last losing on the field in 2010 and leading the all-time series 66-27-4. Kickoff is 7 p.m. at Osceola High School.
OSCEOLA 28, LAKE NONA 0
At Lake Nona High School
Pre-Season Kickoff Classic
O: Cornelius Walls 7 Run (Adrian Bermudez kick)
O: Ja’Keem Jackson 60 pass from Chad Mascoe (Bermudez kick)
O: Chris Combs 6 pass from Mascoe (Bermuda kick)
O: Gunner Holland 9 pass from Mascoe (Bermuda kick)