With the two teams moving into different classifications, it will not be a possible playoff preview but when Seminole (1-0) meets Osceola (1-0) on Friday night it will be critically important game for post-season seeding purposes.
Both former perennial Class 8A state powers, Osceola (now in the Class 4A Suburban Division) and Seminole (now in Class 4A Metro Division), met in the 2020 Class 8A state championship game. Friday’s matchup, slated for 7 p.m. at Markus Paul Stadium on the OHS campus, will feature two teams with high aspirations for the 2022 campaign.
“With the new format, we will not meet in the playoffs, but this is a huge game for both sides,” Osceola coach Eric Pinellas said. “Eric (Seminole head coach Eric Lodge) has done a great job with that team. They may have lost a lot of talent to graduation, but they simply have reloaded like they do every year. They have big, fast and explosive athletes all over the field and we will have our hands full.”
Osceola opened the season last week with an impressive 14-5 win over Treasure Coast, a team that advanced all the way to the Class 8A semifinals a year ago. While the Kowboys defense was not allowing a touchdown, sophomore running back Taevion Swint scored twice in the win. Seminole pounded out and impressive 49-0 win over Sarasota Riverview – another perennially state playoff team – in its season opener last week as quarterback Luke Recker threw a pair of touchdown passes.
“I would certainly encourage our fans to arrive early next week. I know Seminole will bring a ton of people and the atmosphere should be electric,” Pinellas said. “It should be rocking atmosphere.”
In other action, Harmony (1-0) travels to Celebration (0-1), St. Cloud (0-1) is at Deltona Pine Ridge (0-1), Gateway (1-0) travels to Tohopekaliga (1-0), and Liberty (0-1) hosts Eau Gallie (1-0). Poinciana (0-1) plays at Discovery (0-1) in a rare Thursday night game. The Poinciana and the Celebration games kick at 7:30 p.m.; all others are slated for a 7 p.m. start.
The Longhorns will look to continue the momentum they created with a 33-30 win over a solid Eustis team last week. Harmony jumped out to a 7-0 lead in that game when sophomore linebacker Dalten Phelan recovered a fumble on a 15-yard scoop and score on the first series of the game.
Harmony’s running game put on a dominant performance as Tyler Emans (23-129-1 TD), Cooper Richards (10-91-2 TD), and Jonathan Stout (9-44) posted big games as the Longhorn offense posted nearly 280 rushing yards and averaged more than seven yards a carry.
“Eustis is a really good team that won seven or eight games last year and will probably do so again this year, so a two-score win on the road was certainly satisfying,” Head Coach Don Simon said. “We made some mental errors but a lot of those had to do with first-game jitters. We took great care of the football and I saw a ton of improvement compared to last year and last spring. We have a chance to have a pretty good team this year.”
The Storm lost to Ridge, 28-14, in its opener. First year head coach Jeremy Palmer said his young team performed well but could not overcome five turnovers in the game. “You could really tell that losing the kickoff exhibition game to weather really hurt our young squad,” he said. “Still, we came away with a lot of positives. Wide receiver Chip McCuiston had a great game and our young offensive line, especially sophomore center Gavin Konopka, performed really well.”
Palmer added that stopping the Harmony running game would be vital this week. “You have to focus Tyler Emans, he is such a great back but then you can’t forget about Richards, because he also can be dangerous. “
Gateway won its opener for the first time since 2016 with a 27-21 win over Lake Buena Vista. Sophomore running back Josh Fuller scored two touchdowns and quarterback Hector Perez broke a 20-20 tie late in the game with a touchdown run. The Panthers also got solid efforts from Aiden Cooper (3 sacks) and freshman linebacker Dashawn Reese.
“Great win for our kids, but it certainly was not easy,” Panthers coach Marlin Roberts said. “It was the same problem we have had the last couple of years. With our lack of depth and having to play guys both ways, we got pretty gassed about midway through the third quarter and allowed them back in the game. Still it was a good win for our players, but it certainly does not get any easier this week with Toho.”
Under first year coach Anthony Paradiso, the Tigers looked impressive in their opener with a 49-0 win over Liberty. Freshman quarterback Sabby Meassick threw five touchdown passes and although Paradiso did call his quarterback the “real deal” he was quick to downplay the significance of the win.
“We are in a total rebuild from last year (2-8) and Friday was just one small step as we try to build a new culture here,” the long-time and successful coach Lake Nona said. “We have a game plan for how we want to build this program and we know there are going to be some bumps in the road in this first year. The Gateway game will be the next test because Coach Roberts will come in with a good game plan and it will be up to our kids to respond.”
St. Cloud will attempt to get on the winning track this week when it takes on Deltona Pine Ridge, a 42-0 loser to Mantanza on Friday. The Bulldogs also dropped their opener to a talented Central Florida Christian Academy team, 54-27.
“My worst fears came to fruition,” St. Cloud head coach Mike Short said. “They are a small private school but they have had a lot of success in recent years and their starting line-up on both sides of the ball is really good. I thought we played fairly well on offense, but mistakes on special teams really put our defense in some tough positions.”
Pointing to the positive, Short praised the play of quarterback Logan King and his running backs. King, a sophomore, hit 12 of 23 for 149 yards and two touchdowns; while his running backs tallied a respectable 120 yards on the ground. “Night and day between freshman Logan and sophomore Logan,” Short said. “We knew going in we were still a very young team, the key will to be trying to improve from week-to-week.”
Short added that preparations for CFCA were hampered by weather. “We were forced inside for two straight days and chased off the field a third day because of inclement weather and lightning. Hopefully we will be able to get a full week of practice this week.”
Jackson Voltz passed for 222 yards and three scores as Parrish Community defeated Poinciana, 39-15, in the Eagles opener. Randy Beeken’s squad will look for their first win at Discovery; while Liberty will host Eau Gallie.