Friday’s Osceola-Dr. Phillips game is like the opening lyric from a Creed song: Hello my friend we meet again … it’s been awhile, where should we begin …

For the third time in five years, the Kowboys and Panthers will meet in a Class 8A regional playoff semifinals on Friday at 7:30. The fact the game is at Bill Spoone Stadium is good for Osceola; the road team won the other two games in this playoff series.

In 2015, Osceola outlasted Dr. Phillips, 20-19, on its way to the Class 8A championship game. In 2017 in Kissimmee, the Kowboys led 13-10 until the Panthers drove the field and scored on an 8-yard touchdown pass with 15 seconds left to take a 17-13 win, and eventually the 8A state title.

Razor-thin margins are nothing new in this series. If you include a 30-27 Osceola win in a 2017 preseason Kickoff Classic, the score is a 63-63 tie in those three games.

Both teams have strings of district titles that have (DP, 14) or are approaching (OHS, 9) a decade. The Panthers are 9-2, and the two losses are to teams that are still alive in the playoffs (Seminole, Apopka). Their 28-7 win over Ruskin Lennard played in a game-long rain was dominated by the ground game; running backs Brandon Fields, Jaydan Taylor, Nivon Holland all found the end zone. Normally the Panthers are a balanced team, showcasing quarterback Isaiah Givens and leading receiver Jalen Washington.

No matter the weather, Osceola will be powered by its running game; Kowboy backs combined for 285 yards and six touchdowns in last week’s 58-21 shellacking of Riverview that featured a running clock for most of the second half. Wing backs DeWayne McGee and Ja’Randy Swint accounted for five touchdowns in both the run and the passing games. That passing game, behind the arms of quarterbacks Devon Wells and Blake Birchler, has been as prolific as it has been in ten seasons under Coach Doug Nichols.
Friday’s winner will play the Sarasota Riverview-Steinbrenner winner next week for the Region 2 championship.