If St. Cloud should win at Osceola on Friday in the 96th meeting of the two football squads, it’ll be the talk of the town.
And the talk of the season.
And the talk of the school year.

And, this is with a 5-0 Bulldog team coming into the game against the 4-1 Kowboys.


St. Cloud has not beaten Osceola on the field since a 41-35 overtime thriller in 2010. Coach Bryan Smart has been at St. Cloud since 2011 either as an assistant or the head coach, so he’s 0-fer against the Kowboys.


“I’ve had coaches on campus telling me about it, because I’m still learning about how far back and deep it goes, and teaching our kids about it,” he said. “We’re excited about the chance to go play. We’re trying to treat this like one of the other 10 weeks, but it is hard.We have a big task on Friday, I hope we make it a better game than it’s been in the past.”


Over the near century the game’s been played, Osceola has had the upper hand (64-27-4), and especially of late — the Kowboys are 20-3 since 1996 in the rivalry. But Smart, while not a native (he’s originally from New Jersey), understands what a game like this means in a town like St. Cloud.


“This game is great for the community. Florida football is a different animal than from where I’m from. This game is going to continue long after I’m not here.”


Things have changed in the community over the years. St. Cloud is bigger and more spread out, and it’s not even a one-school town anymore. When he played in the game, St. Cloud Class of 1992 grad Chad Ansbaugh, now the Bulldogs’ girls basketball coach, said the town stopped and took notice when the team played a big game, like the one on Friday will be.


“It was a competitive series when I played,” he said. “I swear I heard about places shutting down with the signs, ‘Gone to the game.’ Over the years, things changed, like when Harmony High opened. 


“Nowadays kids lose their minds about the Harmony game, but to me it still means something to beat Osceola in anything. Playing, then coaching, in that rivalry, is still an honor.”


Ansbaugh said he doesn’t have to think long back to a time when “it mattered which side of the creek you are from,” meaning the canal that divides the two cities. He thinks back to the 1999 rivalry version — Osceola (9-0) and St. Cloud (8-1) both came in undefeated, and the Bulldogs scored first on the Kowboys’ field. Then it turned into a four-quarter game, and OHS won going away in front of a capacity crowd.


“That atmosphere was unbelievable, that’s what people romanticize about when they think high school football,” he said. “As an alumni, all I want is to see the players represent well and respect the rivalry. St. Cloud players have historically played with a chip on their shoulder, and embrace it.
“Bryan’s doing a great job of being a steward of the program. There’s pressure to participate in the fifth-oldest rivalry in the state. I’m glad this game remains in the fabric of the community. There’s been many changes, but it’s still 11 on 11, first and 10, and still conjures up great memories.”