Dan PearsonBy Dan Pearson
For Positively Osceola

Photo Creds: Rob Herbert

In a rivalry that dates back to 1925, Osceola will host St. Cloud in the 98th meeting between the two schools. It is also one of the longest continuous rivalries in the state, as the teams have met every year since 1942, when World War II interrupted the series for one year.

A lot has changed since the game was first played. Until Gateway opened in 1986, Osceola and St. Cloud were the only two public high schools in the county and their rivalry produced many close and memorable games.

But the series has been lopsided in recent years, especially when Harmony opened in 2004—which siphoned off a large portion of the St. Cloud student body. Overall, the Kowboys lead the all-time series 66-27-4. St. Cloud last won on the field in 2010, a 41-35 thriller that they eventually had to forfeit due to a player eligibility issue.

St. Cloud’s last official victories in the series came in the early 2000s, when the Bulldogs won back-to-back games by nearly identical scores of 28-24 in 2005 and 27-24 in 2004. Since the 2010 forfeit, Osceola has dominated the series, winning the last 10 games in a row and posting three shutouts with an average margin of victory of 26.7 points per game.

Bulldogs head coach Bryan Smart is realistic about his team’s chances this time around, especially since he returned no offensive starters from last year’s 8-3 team. St. Cloud (1-2) has scored just 15 points in its first three games this season.

“It’s really hard to consider it a rivalry when one team has dominated for so long,” Smart said. “Osceola has been super talented in the last decade and nothing much changed this year—especially with their defense. Still this game and its history mean an awful lot to the people in this county. We will go out and play as hard as we can and see what happens.”

One slight advantage for the Bulldogs may come in the scheduling, as the contest falls in the middle of a stretch where the Kowboys will play three games in eight days.

The contest was originally slated for Aug. 27 but was postponed due to Covid-tracing issues. This was a bye week for the Bulldogs, but Osceola will play state-power Manatee on Friday night and will follow the Monday St. Cloud game with another contest against Windermere the following Friday.

“Three games in a week is not an ideal situation,” Osceola Head Coach Eric Pinellas said. “But by the same token, we know what this game means to the players, former players, the alumni, and to the fans. Generations of county residents have played in this game and when it became apparent that this was the only time the game could be made up, the decision was reached to make it happen.”

As for Friday’s game with Manatee, the Kowboys are not taking the 0-3 Hurricanes lightly. Manatee has made the playoffs every year since 2009—including numerous deep runs and seasons with double digit wins. “They are a young team and have a new coach, but they have outstanding athletes and they are getting better every week,” Pinellas said. “It will be a challenge for us.”

Monday’s game with St. Cloud will be Osceola’s first at home this season. The Kowboys will play five of their last six contests at home, including a huge Oct. 15 matchup with district opponent Dr. Phillips when Osceola’s field will be dedicated to former player and NFL great Markus Paul.

In other games this week involving county schools, Gateway (1-2) plays at Harmony (2-1) on Friday. The Longhorns, behind a 200-yard rushing performance from Tyler Emans, won a 35-34 decision against Mt. Dora last week; while Gateway dropped a 35-6 decision to Eau Gallie.

“We need to clean up the mistakes we made last week, where we had way too many penalties and committed four turnovers,” Harmony Head Coach Don Simon said. “Hopefully we will fix those mistakes this week. As far as a game plan, I don’t think it’s much of a mystery on what we are going to try to do, run the ball and control the clock.”

Gateway will attempt to counter with a running game of its own. Junior Laquavion Pinellas, the nephew of Osceola head coach Eric Pinellas, has been averaging over 5.7 yards per carry this season for the Panthers.

Celebration (2-1) will attempt to get back on the winning side of the ledger when they travel to Mulberry on Friday night. The Storm took a huge step up in competition last week when they hosted perennial state power Dr. Phillips in their district opener and came up short, 49-0.

“We played a great team last week and unfortunately we didn’t do anything to stay competitive against them,” Storm Head Coach Rich Pringle said. “In order to be successful this week we are going to have to clean up a lot of things we didn’t do well against Dr. Phillips. Among other things, our tackling has got to get a lot better.”

A victory for the Storm may depend on the health of star running back Oniel Senatus, who has rushed for 622 yards and 10 touchdowns in his first three games. Senatus tweaked his knee early in the second quarter of the Dr. Phillips game and did not play in the second half.

Tohopekaliga (1-3) will host Hagerty (1-1) on Friday. The Eagles dropped a 40-0 decision to Oak Ridge in their district opener last week. The Tigers have been limited offensively, having been held scoreless in their last two games.

After losing a tough 12-0 defensive struggle to Lake Region, Poinciana (0-3) will be looking for their first victory of the season when they Lakeland Teneroc (1-1) on Friday. “That loss was tough as we had to play without nine starters for various reasons,” Poinciana Head Coach Randy Beeken said. “Despite being shorthanded, I thought our defense responded well but without our starting quarterback and running back we simply could not generate any offense. If we get the majority of those players back we will be a lot more competitive,” Beeken noted. “This team needs a win.”

Liberty, 0-2, had its game last week postponed due to covid-tracing issues. That game, with Melbourne Central Catholic, will be made up on Tuesday, Oct. 12. Meanwhile, the Chargers were back to practice this week as they prepare for a Friday home game Lake Howell (1-3). “We got everyone back this week and hopefully we’ll be ready to go,” Head Coach Brett Munroe said. “Being a Seminole County school, we don’t know a bunch about them – other than what we have seen on film.” Munroe will count on sophomore quarterback Jeremiah Piere-Louis and wide receiver/tight end Greg Vital to get the Charger offense moving this week.’

Photo Creds: Rob Herbert