The most anticipated county football game of the season is upon us, as the Osceola Kowboys (6-1-0, 3-0-0) travel to West Orange (7-1, 2-0) to face the Warriors in a game that most likely will determine the Class 8A, District 9 championship.
It is a critical game for both schools as the winner would get to host at least one home playoff game as district champion.
“This is going to be a game between two really evenly matched teams,” Osceola Head Coach Eric Pinellas said. “Both teams are playing with a lot of confidence and momentum right now. Games like this create a lot of excitement for both the players and the fans.”
Statistically, there is little difference between the two teams. Both have one loss to ranked teams, as Osceola dropped its season opener to Cocoa – the number two ranked team in Class 4A – by a 22-21 score and West Orange’s only loss came by a 13-0 score to Apopka (5-2) – the 14th ranked team in Class 8A. Both teams easily defeated common opponents this year in Dr. Phillips and Windermere.
Heading into the contest, both teams are riding six-game winning streaks. Osceola’s offense is averaging 46.9 points per game; while West Orange is averaging 39.8. Both defenses have been stingy, with the Kowboys giving up 6.9 points per game; while the Warriors are allowing under six points per game (5.6).
Osceola may have a slight advantage on offense, due to its incredible balance. For decades, the Kowboys bread and butter has been its running attack but the team often faltered in post-season games when they fell behind and had to throw.
This season has been entirely different. Led by senior quarterback Chad Mascoe, the Kowboys have already thrown for almost a thousand yards this season. Mascoe is completing 62.6% of his passes and has 12 touchdown passes, against just one interception. Nine Kowboys receivers are averaging more than 10 yards per catch; with Donald Cummings leading the way with a 14.6 average (10-146) and four touchdowns. Chris Combs (17.7 yards-per-reception), Perry Garrett (25.5 YPR) and Isaiah Jean-Baptiste (19.3 YPR) are all threats to take every catch to the end zone; while Ja’Keem Jackson (19-262-3 TD) is an excellent possession receiver and leads the team in catches.
Osceola’s run game still remains outstanding, although no one back has been dominating. Senior captain Ja’Randy Swint leads Osceola 421 yards rushing and six touchdowns, but the Kowboys have 11 runners all averaging more than six yards a carry including freshman sensation Taeveon Swint who leads the team in rushing touchdowns with seven and has averaged 7.6 yards per carry (35-265). The younger Swint is also a threat as a receiver and return man, having accounted for 528 all-purpose yards and eight touchdowns on limited touches this season.
West Orange will counter with quarterback Tyler Huff, a 53.7 completion passer. His top targets are speedster wide receivers Jayden Gibson (35-542-10 TDs) and Akeem Waseem (24-305-5 TDs). The Warriors have a really good running back in Tarrell Walden (73-605-10).
Walden may find tough sledding against the Kowboy defense. In seven games this season, Osceola has only allowed 182 total rushing yards (1.17 yards per carry) and since that opening game when they allowed 83 rushing yards on 23 carries to Cocoa, the Kowboys defense is giving up way less than a single yard per carry (99 yards on 140 carries).
Osceola’s front seven, led by John Walker and Derrick LeBlanc, has set the stage for an opportunistic defense led by defensive backs Kaylon Walters, Jerry Wilson and Bo Mascoe. As a unit, the Osceola defense is allowing less than 110 total yards per game, has recorded 14 interceptions, 7 fumble recoveries, 26 pass defenses, 21 quarterback sacks and an incredible 60 tackles-for-loss.
The West Orange defense has been equally impressive. Led by 6-4, 240-lb. linebacker Brendan Flakes, the Warriors have recorded 24 quarterback sacks, 54 tackles-for-loss and forced nine turnovers.
“The real key will be for us to take care of the ball and do what we do best,” Pinellas said. “In our only loss this season we did not do a good job of that with some fumbles. We will also need to do a better job on special teams this week.”
Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. on the West Orange campus.
In other county action this week, Harmony (4-3) will attempt to get back on track after last week’s disappointing loss to Melbourne (49-7) – which put a major damper on their playoff hopes. The Longhorns will host East River (3-5) in a district game at 7 p.m. Longhorns’ running back Tyler Emans went over 1000 yards last week in the loss.
Celebration (4-3) travels to Windermere (2-5) for a district game. With a win, the Storm can insure just their second non-losing season in the school’s 19-year history. Although Celebration was dominated against West Orange (55-8) last week, running back Oniel Senatus continued his fine season with a respectable 60 yards on 16 carries against a really good Warrior defense. Senatus now has 1,138 yards rushing on the season and is among the state leaders in rushing (162 yards per game) and touchdowns scored (15).
Coming off a disappointing 10-9 loss to Leesburg, Liberty (3-4) will look to even its season record when they host Discovery (1-6) on Friday night. Sophomore quarterback Jeremiah Pierre-louis continues his fine season; while its defense is allowing less than 14 points per game.
Gateway (1-6) seeks its second win of the season when they travel to Lake Region (2-4). Panthers head coach Marlin Roberts hopes to see his team improve on offensive consistency. “We have really had trouble moving the ball on the ground,” Roberts said. “Without a running game it’s tough to win.”
St. Cloud (2-5, 0-2) takes on a good Viera (4-2, 2-0) in a district road game Friday. Offense continues to be an issue, as the Bulldogs are averaging just 5.7 points a game. Defensively Ryan Clancy (65 tackles, 5 TFL) is having an outstanding season.
Tohopekaliga (2-6) looks to break a two-game losing streak when it travels to Freedom (4-4), which is led offensively by a pair of transfers from Osceola High in quarterback Blake Birchler (57.1%, 11 TDs) and running back Rashaun Dudley (65-737-7TD).
Poinciana (0-7) will seek its first win of the season when it hosts Parrish Community (2-4) on Friday night. The Eagles DeShawn Wimbrey has played quarterback, wide receiver and running back this season and leads the team with four touchdowns and 297 receiving yards.