By Dan Pearson
For Positively Osceola
Photo: Rob Herrbert
In a rivalry that dates back to 1925, the Osceola Kowboys will host the St. Cloud Bulldogs tonight at 7pm at Osceola 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.”
Tonight’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.
We’d like to say thank you to tonight’s Community Business Partners, who join Positively Osceola in supporting the School District of Osceola County’s Athletics Programs: Orlando Health, Kissimmee Utility Authority, Big John’s Rockin’ Barbecue, Land Title Professionals, Rob Rosen – Financial Advisor with Edward Jones, Hemphill Accounting Services, and Osceola County Fair – KVLS.