Dan PearsonBy:  J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola

Uncharacteristic errors by Harmony’s special teams, including a bad snap on a potential game-tying extra point, proved to be the difference as St. Cloud slipped by the Longhorns to record a 31-30 upset in the 17
th edition of the Soldier City Classic.

“I told our kids all week long that despite the record, we were going to get St. Cloud’s best game and we did,” Harmony Head Coach Don Simon said.  “Little mistakes become big mistakes and although we did a good job of fighting back from a deep hole, we did not do the little things you have to do to win a tight game.”

Simon’s analysis on mistakes was spot on.

In addition to the botched snap on the extra point that would have tied the game with two minutes to go, the Longhorns also saw an errant snap cost them a field goal.  Harmony, which came into the game with their playoff hopes still in tack, also turned the ball over three times and failed to punch the ball in the end zone from inside the 10-yard line twice.

But it was also a game where St. Cloud rose above a dismal season to earn an incredible win, their third straight in the Battle for the Brass Bugle—which also gave them a 9-8 lead in the intense rivalry.  “I can finally show my face around town,” Bulldogs Head Coach Bryan Smart joked after the win.  “Seriously, I am so happy for this team, especially our seniors.  We have faced a lot of adversity this year and yes, we are going to finish with a losing record.  But this is a game our kids will remember for a lifetime.  This is what high school football is all about.”   

Harmony Cheer
St. Cloud Bulldog
Band Dawgs

St. Cloud came into the game with a losing record.  They were averaging less than six points a game and only scored more than 10 points only once this season.  St. Cloud’s two wins have come against teams with a combined 3-15 record.

“To be honest, I wasn’t really optimistic coming into the game.  We were getting a great effort every week but between personnel issues, Covid-tracing problems, no returning starters on offense and other issues, we have just been over-matched,” Smart said.  “Our kids just gave us a tremendous effort tonight.”

Both teams started off slow, but Wyatt Castellucci would stake St. Cloud to a 3-0 lead with a 37-yard field goal midway through the second period.  Harmony would make the first of the “little mistakes” that Simon talked about when they failed to cover the ensuing pooch kick.  Freshman Tyler Green recovered and six plays later Ryan Clancy ran it over from four for a 10-0 St. Cloud lead.

A Tyler Emans touchdown run cut the lead to 10=7, but St. Cloud answered immediately as Julian Nasco took a reverse pitch on the very next play and ran 80 yards untouched for a score and a 17-7 lead.  They would extend the lead to 24-7 as Clancy would recover an Emans’ fumble and then score his second rushing touchdown four plays later on a 4-yard scoring run.

Harmony would rally.

Getting the ball back with just 15 second remaining in the half, sophomore quarterback Ayden Parks hit Isaiah Oquendo on a 41-yard touchdown pass to make it 24-14 at the half.  Harmony would then come up with a turnover, leading to a short Emans touchdown run to make it a 24-21 game midway through the third period. 

After a stop by the Harmony defense, the St. Cloud defense made perhaps the play of the game when it stuffed Cooper Richards for no gain on a third and goal from the two.  Although a short Kevin Lavigne field goal made it 24-24, it kept St. Cloud even.

“We gave up that long touchdown right before half, threw a pick that led to a score and on the next possession they were knocking on the door step to take the lead,” Smart said.  “Holding them to a field goal was huge.  The game was full of momentum swings and that was one of them.”

St. Cloud would take the lead for good on the next possession.  King, a freshman, would convert a third and 20 by throwing a 25-yard pass to former starting quarterback Jaden Morehead.  One play later, he would hit Morehead on a 41-yard touchdown pass to put the Bulldogs ahead, 31-24.

The teams would then trade possessions, with Harmony taking over on the St. Cloud 40.  A false start pushed them back to the 45, but Harmony would hand the ball off to Emans on four straight carries and he would cap the drive with a 4-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 31-30.  But the errant snap on the extra point kept it a one-point game.

Harmony would fail to recover an on-sides kick but would force a punt with 41 seconds remaining.  Castellucci, one of many heroes on the night for St. Cloud, would deliver a 54-yard kick down the Harmony 10 to clinch the win.

Castellucci was one of many heroes on the night for St. Cloud.  King completed seven of 15 passes for 118 yards and a touchdown.  Clancy recovered the fumble and had two rushing touchdowns.  Morehead caught nine passes for 100 yards and a score, 135-lb. senior running back Anthony Morales ran for 51 tough yards on 13 carries, sophomore Nasco rushed for 89 yards and scored a touchdown.

“We had four freshman starters and everyone contributed tonight, but this was a game for our seniors,” Smart said.  “Jaden Morehead is an incredible athlete who was playing quarterback and got hurt.  When he came back he was just too valuable not to have on the field somewhere.  He made so many big plays tonight.  So did Ryan Clancy, so did Matt Clukey, so did Anthony Morales.”

Harmony was not without its stars.  Despite losing two fumbles, Emans ran for 179 yards and scored three touchdowns.  Cooper Richards ran for 66 yards on just on 10 carries and other than two big scoring plays, Harmony’s defense played well.  Take away the touchdown plays of 80 and 41 yards, the Longhorns defense allowed just 112 net offensive yards on 46 plays.

Three of the four Longhorns losses this season have been by one score or less.  “This was a tough loss, but we still have a chance for a winning record this season,” Simon added. “We have a chance to finish with a winning record so this will be a gut check for us this week.”

St. Cloud wraps up its season next week with a road game against Winter Springs (1-7); while Harmony also takes to the road against New Smyrna Beach (6-3).