By: J. Daniel Pearson for Positively Osceola
It’s Week 11 and the end of the high school football regular season is upon us, but the county has saved the best for last — as we cap the season with two huge rivalry games tonight!
Harmony will face-off against St. Cloud at 7 p.m. on Friday for the famed Brass Bugle trophy in the 19th playing of the Soldier City Classic. The Bulldogs were hopeful it will be the first game played on the new artificial turf field at Thomas Gannarelli Field, but that’s not possible after a part in a machine needed to complete the job failed and won’t be delivered in time. The game will be played at Austin Tindall Park.
“It’s going to come down to the wire as far as getting final inspections and approvals needed,” St. Cloud Athletics Director Bryan Smart said. “It will be absolutely awesome if we can christen the new field by playing our top rival on it. The game and the atmosphere around Soldier City Classic is always awesome, but it would make for a fantastic unveiling if we could play it on the new field.”
As far as the Soldier City Classic, without question the game has become the top rivalry in the county. Although the St. Cloud-Osceola game will forever be the oldest rivalry with its 100-year history, that game has been a totally lopsided affair of late as Osceola has won 19 in a row and leads the all-time series 68-28-4.
The Harmony-St. Cloud game is simply a bigger a game.
When Harmony opened in 2004, it siphoned off almost 50% of St. Cloud’s student population and the Longhorns instantly became St. Cloud’s biggest rival – with the schools located just 10 miles apart on US 192. Although the teams did not meet in that first year, they have played every year since.
No team has won more than four in a row and the series is currently tied at nine wins each. Harmony has outscored St. Cloud in the series, 424-387, but the Bulldogs have won three of the last four. Eight of the games have been decided by a touchdown or less.
Following last week’s 52-0 win over Celebration, St. Cloud comes into the game on a four-game winning streak and a 6-3 record. Harmony enters the game 2-7 after last week’s 41-0 setback to 8-1 Palm Bay Heritage. Still, both Harmony coach Nick Lippert and St. Cloud coach Mike Short say current records mean nothing when it comes to taking home the Brass Bugle.
“This game is the most important one our schedule, period,” Short said. “We can be having a great season, an average season or a losing season but when it comes to this game that doesn’t matter. It’s been a great rivalry against a great opponent and there’s a lot of respect from both sides. But we want to win this game more than any other one we play and I know they feel the same way.”
“They circle this game, we circle this game. It doesn’t matter what the records are it’s the biggest game of the year,” Harmony coach Nick Lippert said. “Nobody is thinking it’s going to be an easy game and that’s what makes for a great rivalry.”
Perhaps what makes the game most interesting is the common opponent Tohopekaliga. The Tigers absolutely manhandled St. Cloud earlier in the season; while Harmony posted a huge 24-13 win over Tohopekaliga three weeks ago.
Still Lippert says that result really doesn’t matter. “In my opinion the Toho game means nothing when it comes to playing St. Cloud. I believe the formula is simple. We need to make sure we don’t let the atmosphere get to big for us. We need to make King (St. Cloud QB Logan King) uncomfortable in the pocket. We need to be able to run the ball and we need to win the battle of special teams. That is how we can win the game.”
Across town, Liberty (2-7) will travel to Poinciana (3-6 ) for the 17th playing of the Battle of the Boulevard. Opened in 2007, Liberty has absolutely dominated the series – with the Chargers winning the first 15 meetings, while outscoring the Eagles 668 to186 in the process.
Poinciana got its first win in the series last year, handing Liberty a 56-0 loss and the Eagles should be in position to make it two in a row as first-year Liberty coach Dee Hart continues his rebuild of the Chargers , who went 0-10 last year and were outscored 453-12 in that year.
With the return of injured quarterback Cameron Brown two weeks ago– combined with the fact that their defense has played well all season—the Eagles may have too much firepower on both sides of the ball for the rebuilding Chargers.
“We got the monkey off our back last year and we want that to continue,” Poinciana coach Randy Beeken said. “If we play our game, I am confident about our chances, but we certainly are not taking anything for granted. Coach Hart (Liberty Coach Dee Hart) has done a fantastic job in his first year and he will have them ready to play. Our goal will be to play our game.”
Poinciana dropped a 29-22 decision to Mulberry last week, their fifth loss to a playoff team this season. Beeken said it was another tough loss where poor decisions hurt his team. “We had a 22-21 lead with under two minutes to go and they were out of timeouts. We attempt a pass and our QB was hit as he was throwing and it was ruled a fumble. They scoop and score and beat us 29-22. I thought it was an incomplete pass but unfortunately there’s not replay review in high school.”
Liberty lost a close game to Lake Region last week, but after an 0-10 season where they scored just 12 points, Hart had already done a masterful job of rebuilding the Chargers in year one. They have two wins and have scored 99 points this season in nine games after scoring just 12 all last season.
The rest of the county schedule does feature some interesting games.
Osceola earned its 17th straight playoff appearance with a shutout of Tohopekaliga and the Kowboys (3-6) will have another stern test when it travels to West Orange (3-6).
Osceola coach Eric Pinellas says West Orange is a very good team that will provide a stern test prior to the start of the post-season. “Like us, they have played a murderous schedule this season. On top of that, their quarterback plays spring ball with them and participates in summer drills and then transfers in August to Jones at the last minute. It was a huge setback for them. They have three or four Division one prospects on their roster and this will be another great test for us as we get ready for the playoffs.”
Tohopekaliga (5-4) would need a road win against Haines City (5-4) in their season finale to secure a second consecutive winning season under Anthony Paradiso. The game is also an opportunity for sophomore quarterback Sabby Meassick to continue his record breaking passing season.
Celebration ‘s young team will have an opportunity to finish the season on a high note when the Storm (1-8) host Lake Region (4-5). Gateway (0-9) will play Gadsen County (4-5) from the Florida Panhandle in their season-finale.
- SOLDIER CITY CLASSIC RESULTS
- 2005 Harmony, 17-14
- 2006 Harmony, 68-7
- 2007 Harmony, 49-0
- 2008 St. Cloud, 17-14
- 2009 St. Cloud, 28-21
- 2010 St. Cloud, 28-7
- 2011 St. Cloud, 46-6
- 2012 Harmony, 26-20
- 2013 Harmony, 12-7
- 2014 Harmony, 14-2
- 2015 St. Cloud, 57-13
- 2016 St. Cloud, 39-8
- 2017 Harmony, 35-33
- 2018 Harmony, 56-9
- 2019 St. Cloud, 48-7
- 2020 St. Cloud, 21-17
- 2021 St. Cloud, 31-30
- 2022 Harmony 44-0