The Solider City Classic, the annual rivalry game between Harmony and St. Cloud, highlights the final week of the high school football season. Scheduled for “The Ranch” on the Harmony campus, the 18th edition of the Classic will kick at 7 p.m.
“The phrase you can throw the record books out the window may be a tired cliché but it absolutely holds true for this game,” Bulldogs coach Mike Short said. “It doesn’t matter what the won-lost records are or who is favored, these teams always get at each other and anything can happen.”
When Harmony opened in 2004, almost half of their new students were previously zoned for St. Cloud – which created a natural rivalry. Over the years, kids zoned for Harmony grew up completing in Little League and other youth sports in St. Cloud. “The players have known each other forever and while they are friends, it’s just not true this week,” Short said. “The same can be really said for the coaches too.”
St. Cloud, 6-3, comes into the game with a three-game winning streak in the series – which includes last year’s 31-30 thriller. Overall, they lead the all-time series 9-8. The Bulldogs also come into the game the hotter of the two teams as they have won four of their last five – including a 32-6 win over Celebration where Logan King threw for one touchdown and ran for another and Terrance Griffin rushed for two more scores.
Harmony is 5-4 on the season after a disappointing Friday night loss to Heritage, 35-3, which most likely knocked them out of contention for an at-large playoff spot. “We did not play very well in any phase of the game,” Longhorn coach Don Simon said. “It was especially disappointing given what the game could have meant to us.” Still the veteran coach has little doubt his team will rebound and be ready to go on Friday. He also believes that avoiding mistakes will be the key to breaking St. Cloud’s three-year strangle hold on the Brass Bugle trophy. “The last two years the game was decided by a total of five points and in both of those games, I felt we made some bad mistakes that basically cost us chances at wins. We need to take care of the ball and avoid those mistakes this year,” the veteran coach said.
While not the oldest rivalry in the county (that belongs to Osceola – St. Cloud), the Soldier City Classic has evolved as the best and most intense. “We have played Osceola since pretty much the beginning of time,” former coach and current Bulldog Athletics Director Bryan Smart said. “But to be honest, when one team continues to dominate a series like Osceola has, it may still have tradition but it just hasn’t been that much of a rivalry. St. Cloud and Harmony is different. Their players and our players have been competing with and against each other all the way back to youth sports. The series has been pretty even and I know there is a lot of pride on both sides when these two teams get together. It’s the one game on the schedule every year that everyone points to and gets excited about regardless of how the season has gone.”
Another in-county rivalry game will take place this week when Poinciana travels to Liberty for the 16th edition of the Battle of the Boulevards. Like Harmony-St. Cloud, these schools are located in close proximity to each other and when Liberty opened in 2007 – it drew a significant portion of its student body from Poinciana. And although this rivalry has been just as intense and emotional as the Solider City Classic, what it hasn’t been is competitive. Almost unexplainable, the Chargers have won all 15 games of the series and have outscored the Eagles 668 to 186 in the process.
That could finally change this year, as the Eagles are enjoying one of their best seasons ever as they took a 6-2 record into a Monday night game at Hardee. They picked up that sixth win on Friday night with a 42-0 win over Winter Haven’s Ambassador’s Christian Academy on Friday, insuring just the second winning season in the school’s 31-year history.
In the Ambassador game, the Eagles scored two defensive touchdowns on a 70-yard “pick-six” by Perry Garrett and a 50-yard fumble return by Michael Centano. De’Kwan Bradley threw two touchdown passes to Donald Cummings and Dav’rell Cohn rushed for a pair of touchdowns.
On the other hand, Liberty is experiencing one of their worst seasons ever as they are winless in nine games and have scored only two touchdowns all season – including one in a 39-6 loss to Lake Region on Friday. Still, Poinciana coach Randy Beeken is taking nothing for granted. “Although they have struggled this year, I’m sure Liberty will be fired up for this game,” he said. “I honestly thought we had the personnel to compete and win last year and we got beat 48-0. So, I can promise we are not going to be over-confident or think this game is already won.”
In other action this week, Osceola (6-3) will be looking for its fourth win in a row when its hosts Central Florida power West Orange (5-3) in its regular season finale. Before the split into Metro and Suburban classes this year, the two were placed in the same district last season and the Warriors defeated the Kowboys 35-21 in the regular season and 16-7 in a regional semifinal game – both were played at West Orange.
Osceola coach Eric Pinellas says the game is far from a revenge game though. “We choose to look ahead not behind,” Pinellas said. “What this game does represent is an opportunity for a quality win against very good opponent. We’re still in the hunt for a number one regional seed and a win against West Orange could help us get there.”
The Kowboys won their fourth in a row and fifth in their last six with a 62-7 dismantling of Tohopekaliga on Friday. It was Osceola’s 18th district championship since 1982 and counting a 2010 forfeit win over St. Cloud, it was Kowboys’ 49th consecutive win over county opposition. Taevion Swint scored four touchdowns in the win and the Osceola starters did not allow a touchdown for a fourth consecutive game. During that time, the Kowboys have out-scored the opposition 193-16.
West Orange is the seventh 2021 playoff opponent on the Kowboys schedule this season. “We purposely put together a really tough schedule to get ready for the post-season,” Pinellas added. “We are playing our best football of the year right now and we hope to use this last game to continue to build on that momentum. Right now, we are very close to where I wanted to be heading into the post-season.”
Celebration, Gateway and Tohopekaliga will also close out their regular seasons on Friday. The Storm (1-8) will look for their second win of the season when they travel to Lake Region (4-5). Falling to 2-6 after a 38-16 loss to Davenport, the Panthers will travel to Lyman (6-3). And Tohopekaliga (5-4) will attempt to break a four-game losing streak when they host the Haines City Hornets (4-3) on Friday.