By: J. Daniel Pearson for Positively Osceola
Following an impressive road win over West Orange in their regular season finale, the Osceola Kowboys will participate in the FHSAA Playoffs for an impressive 17th consecutive time when they travel to Treasure Coast this Friday to take on the Titans (7-2) at 7 p.m.
Meanwhile, fresh of their big 21-0 win over Harmony, St. Cloud (7-3) earned a Bowl Game. They will host Lake Region (5-5) at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday in the first game played on the Bulldogs new turf field; while Tohopekaliga (5-5) will attempt to end the season on a positive note when they play a Bowl Game at Lake Howell at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Elsewhere, the 2023 season came to end for the Osceola Kowboys Lady Volleyball team, the county will send a team to the state golf championships and fall cross country action continues. Here is what is happening around Osceola County this week:
The 4S, District 10 Champions, Osceola (4-6, 3-0) finished its regular season in positive fashion with a 21-10 win over West Orange. The Kowboys got the win despite resting Taevion Swint (ankle) – getting an impressive running game from Elijah Hickson and Zion Mathews, who both came close to the 100-yard rushing mark. Defensively, sophomore Ja’mario Bradford had three interceptions.
Osceola reached the post-season by sweeping through district play and despite the uncharacteristic losing season, Head Coach Eric Pinellas says the Kowboys are looking forward to meeting Treasure Coast (7-2) in the opening round of the playoffs. It will be the fourth time in the last two years the Kowboys have played Titans, including a season-opening 22-8 loss back on Aug. 25.
“We’re a totally different team than we were back then,” Pinellas said. “We’re pretty healthy now and are coming off probably our best overall game of the season. They (Treasure Coast) obviously know what we’re about but we certainly know what they are about. Both teams are pretty stout defensively, the question will be getting our offense going.”
Osceola has played perhaps the toughest schedule in the state this year, facing eight opponents in the top 100 overall in the state; including losses against the 6th (Daytona Beach Mainland), 13th (Seminole) and 19th (Treasure Coast) overall ranked teams in the state.
St. Cloud (7-3) will attempt to get to eight wins on the season for the first time since 2008 (9-2) when they host Lake Region on a Bowl Game. It will be the first home game on St. Cloud’s new turf field, as the team split its 2023 home game schedule between Austin Tindall Park and Hickory Tree Elementary as construction was on-going.
Tohopekaliga (5-5) will look to finish its season on the winning side when it travels to Lake Howell on Wednesday for a Bowl Game. The Silver Hawks finished at 6-4 this season with a hard-fought 28-24 loss to Mt. Dora. After a promising 4-1 start, the Tigers lost four of its final five games. Tohopekaliga lost to Haines City, 35-6. Of note in that game was 256 passing yards and one touchdown by sophomore quarterback Sabby Meassick. With one game remaining in the season, Meassick has thrown for 3,044 yards and 38 touchdowns.
Meanwhile, the season came to an end for the other five public schools in Osceola County, with only Poinciana coming away victorious in their final game. After dropping the first 15 games in the series, Poinciana made it two-in-a-row in the Battle of the Boulevards, defeating Liberty, 35-8. Junior quarterback Cameron Brown threw for four touchdowns. Junior Ernest Nunn scored twice – once on offense and once on defense – as the Eagles finish the season at 4-6. Quarterback and senior captain Jeremiah Pierre-Louis accounted for Liberty’s only score, as the Chargers finished 2-8.
Celebration dropped a 40-11 decision to Lake Region to finish at 1-9 and Gateway (0-10) lost to Gadsen County from the Florida Panhandle (49-0). With the loss to St. Cloud in the Soldier City Classic, Harmony fell to 2-8 on the season.
Looking for their highest finish in school history, the St. Cloud Lady Bulldogs will participate in the FHSAA Class 3A State Golf Championship, Nov. 10-11, at Mission Inn. Led by sophomore Karolyna Adams, the Bulldogs are making their third straight appearance in the state tournament and are seeded third behind Lake Mary and Doral High School.
St. Cloud reached the state tournament by virtue of their second place finish last week in the Region 2 Championship. The Lady Bulldogs tied Lake Nona for the regional title, but lost in a one-hole playoff. St. Cloud is not the only county participant in the state championships. Celebration’s George Aguilera, by virtue of his two-under par 70 at last week’s regional championship, earned one of the 16 at-large bids to states.
One year after eliminating Jupiter in the playoffs, the top-seeded Warriors (25-3) returned the favor with a hard fought 25-21, 25-21, 25-23 win over Osceola in the Class 7A, Region 2 Finals on Wednesday night. The Kowboys (23-7) were looking to defend its regional title and move on to the State Final Four for a second consecutive year but came up short against Jupiter, who entered the game ranked number four in Class 7A and #8 overall in the state.
In the loss, Cate Palmi (17 kills) and Jordin Southall (13 kills) led the attack; Alex Liggeri had 32 assists; with Palmi and Liggeri each serving three aces. “It was a bittersweet season in that we accomplished a lot but felt we could have went further in the state tournament,” Coach Carrie Palmi said. “Even in defeat, these kids fought to the end. They have a lot to be proud of.”
Those accomplishments include an Orange Belt Conference and District championship; as well as a regional runner-up. Osceola, which went 49-12 in the last two years, will field another strong team next year as Palmi and Southall will just be juniors and 6-4 middle blocker Brooklyn Sippio will be just a sophomore.
Osceola hosted the Class 4A, District 5 Cross Country Meet for both boys and girls this past Saturday. In the girls’ meet, both St. Cloud (167 team points) and Harmony (186) move on to regionals by virtue of top eight team finishes.
St. Cloud finished fourth with counting times from Kyla Perez (16th overall, 20:56), Alisson Sherwood (19th-21:13), Jayda Sandoval (27th-21:39), Jalissa Yarborough (57th-23:18) and Cailyn Matchak (61st-23:48); while Harmony placed 6th overall behind a third place overall finish from junior Lailana Decker (19:58). Cadence Edwards (33rd-22:14), Miranda Morales (45th-22:38), Hailey DeMeglio (60th-23:36) and Lily Ashley (62nd-23:57) also helped the Longhorns advance.
Although their teams did not advance, Celebration’s Claire Reburn (8th)and Carly Robbins (41st) advance to regionals as at-large participants; as does Tohopekaliga’s Naomi Polete-Ortiz (20th place).
On the boys side, the county will send a large contingent to regionals as Tohopekaliga (4th), St. Cloud (7th), and Harmony (8th) all advanced as a team; while OBC champion Levi Lee from Poinciana (14th overall) advances as an at-large.
Tohopekaliga’s top five counting runners included Cameron Ford (21st-17:32), Jeremy Delgado (29th-17:58), Darwin Vega (38th-18:22), Joaquin Francis (39th-18:24) and Baldwin Baptista (42nd-18:27). St. Cloud was led by Brody Ansbaugh (17th-17:25), Silas Corchado (32nd-18:10), Isaiah Casiano (37th-18:22), Jayden Chofooklun (43rd-18:29), and Caden Kozloski (47th-18:34). Harmony claimed the 8th and final automatic qualifying spot behind Anakin Barbour (18th-17:27), Byron Bronson (33rd-18:11), Nate Greenawalt (56th-18:50), Ethan Walls (68th-19:16) and Riley Ramirez (76th-19:31).
Winter Park (Girls) and Boone (Boys) claimed the team district titles. All qualifying teams and individuals will compete in the Region 2 Championship in Lakeland, Fla. on Thursday.
In Class 3A, Gateway’s Xavier Melendez advances to the Region 1 Championship at Mantanzas High School on Thursday after earning an at-large spot with an 18th place finish at the District 3 meet in Winter Springs on Saturday.