Dan Pearson
By:  J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola

Three juniors, including a pair of record-setting running backs, highlight Positively Osceola’s “Best in High School Football” for the 2021 season. Running backs Oneil Senatus from Celebration and Tyler Emans from Harmony is our “Two-Way” and “Offensive Players of the Year”; while Osceola High junior tackle John Walker is our pick for Defensive Player of the Year.

Walker’s teammate Taevion Swint earns “Freshman of the Year” honors; while Celebration’s Rich Pringle takes our “Coach of the Year” Award. St. Cloud’s incredible 31-30 upset of Harmony is the pick for “Game of the Year” for the 2021 season.

Two-Way Player of the Year
Celebration junior Oneil Senatus is Positively Osceola’s Two-Way Player of the Year. The junior running back compiled gaudy statistics on the offensive side of the ball, amassing a school-record 1816 rushing yards in 11 games with 23 touchdowns. He added 31 receptions for 317 yards and three more scores. With returns, he had more than 2400 all-purpose yards and 27 touchdowns. Senatus rarely left the field. He was the team’s starting safety, where he made 51 tackles with six pass defenses and a forced fumble. “When our staff first got here, we knew he was special, we just had to put had to make sure we put him in a position to display those talents,” Head Coach Rich Pringle said.

Offensive Player of the Year
Like Senatus, Harmony junior Tyler Emans posted incredible offensive numbers in 2021. Playing in just nine games, Emans compiled school records for carries (160), rushing yards (1367), rushing yards per game (151.9), rushing touchdowns (24), all-purpose yards (1709) and total points (156). “He’s certainly a special player,” Head Coach Don Simon said. “The most amazing thing was his consistency all season. He produced game after game for us.”

Defensive Player of the Year
Osceola High School had the best defense in the county and perhaps the entire region in 2021, so it is no surprise that they had Positively Osceola’s Defensive Player of the Year, as well as the two closest runner-ups. Kowboys junior defensive tackle John Walker edges out teammates Derrick Leblanc and defensive back Bo Mascoe at the Defensive Player of the Year. Walker, who joins Leblanc and Mascoe as D-1 prospects, had 75 tackles this season with 18 tackles-for-loss and 13 quarterback sacks. He led a defense that allowed less than 500 total rushing yards in 12 games this season.

Freshman of the Year
It’s often difficult for a young player to stand out, especially when he plays for an explosive team that had many offensive weapons at its disposal. But that’s exactly what freshman Taevion Swint did. Splitting carries with his older brother Ja’Randy, Taevion finished his first season with 612 yards rushing on just 85 carries – averaging 7.2 yards per carry and scoring 12 touchdowns. He caught 16 balls out of the backfield for 189 yards and two more scores and also accounted for more than 1100 all-purpose yards in leading the Kowboys in scoring with 92 points.

Coach of the Year
To say Celebration High School has struggled in football is an understatement. Prior to 2021, the Storm had just one winning season since opening in 2004. Several thought the school would consider going independent in 2021, rather than have to compete the ultra-tough district that included Osceola, West Orange, and Dr. Phillips. But head coach Rich Pringle had different ideas. “It was discussed but the bottom line was if you go independent, so what if you win 10 games if you have no chance of going to the playoffs?,” Pringle said. “We set out to change the football culture at Celebration. We want to compete and we want to compete at the highest levels.” Although the Storm struggled against the district powers, they still managed to win seven games and win a bowl game — recording just the second winning season in school history. For these reasons, Rich Pringle is our pick for Osceola County’s “Coach of the Year.”

Game of the Year
Heading into the 17th edition of the Soldier City Classic, St. Cloud head coach Bryan Smart had little reason for optimism. His team was 2-6 and was averaging a mere six points per game and was facing Harmony’s ground and pound offense. But the Bulldogs built a 24-7 lead and then held on for a heart-stopping 31-30 win and it becomes our pick for “Game of the Year.” Despite facing eight and nine-men fronts, Tyler Emans had a huge game for Harmony – finishing the game with 179 yards and three touchdowns on 24 carries. After scoring a touchdown cut the lead to 31-30 with less than three minutes to go, a botched snap on the extra point proved to be the difference. “This is what high school football and rivalries are all about,” Smart said. “It’s a game our kids will remember forever.”

Front Senatus Pic by High School Football Scoreboard