By: J. Daniel Pearson for Positively Osceola
In what used to be an intense rivalry between Gateway and St. Cloud — two schools located just seven miles apart — has become a one-sided affair in favor of the Bulldogs in recent years.
Terrence “TJ” Griffin rushed for a game-high 133 yards and three touchdowns as St. Cloud won for the fifth consecutive time in the series, beating the Panthers, 46-0. Since Gateway’s 42-15 win in 2018, St. Cloud has outscored the Panthers 187-33.
“We’re a young team without a lot of depth and when you are playing young players they are going to make mistakes,” Panthers head coach Marlin Roberts said. “It just seems like every time we take two steps forward, we immediately follow it by taking three steps back. It gets really frustrating but it is the reality of where we are right now.”
Those errors that frustrated Roberts were apparent the entire game.
After Griffin gave the Bulldogs a 7-0 lead on its first possession. Gateway drove the ball 63-yards on three plays only to see a holding and false start penalty create a second and 30 situation as the drive stalled. On next series, its defense failed to pick up a receiver, as King completed a pass on fourth down that resulted in a 34-yard gain and led to another touchdown.
Two series later, Gateway would sack Logan King and force a fumble deep in St. Cloud territory – only to watch as defenders closest to the ball failed to recover it. King would eventually pull it in as St. Cloud kept possession.
Another Panther drive ended with an interception near the end zone and a Gateway running back had a ball ripped out of hands that ended in a 70-yard touchdown fumble return for the Bulldogs.
While Gateway was struggling, the St. Cloud offense was firing on cylinders.
After Griffin’s first touchdown – on a 1-yard run — King hit junior Alex Springs on a quick slant that turned in a 45-yard touchdown reception and a 14-0 lead.
Griffin then made it 21-0 on a 62-yard touchdown run before Bryce Williams separated Gateway running back Joshua Fuller from the ball and ran 70 yards for the score. A short Gateway punt just before halftime allowed Adrian Gonzalez to boot a 42-yard field goal as St. Cloud extended the lead to 32-0 at the half.
Another Gateway error – this time a fumble midway through the third quarter – eventually set up Griffin for a his third touchdown from 16 yards out to make it a 39-0 lead.
St. Cloud would then take a punt with 9:39 remaining in the game. Griffin would rip off a 21-yard run, Korin Perrin would go for 13 and Jonathan Morales capped the drive with a 11-yard power run through the middle of the Panther defense for the 46-0 final.
For the game, St. Cloud outgained Gateway in total offense, 354-173. The Bulldogs forced three turnovers. The game, which was played at Hickory Tree Park due to ongoing field construct at St. Cloud, was the Bulldogs Homecoming Game.
“It was a great atmosphere and a good crowd,” St. Cloud coach Mike Short noted. “I think our kids fed off the energy of the crowd and we played well in all three phases of the game. It’s certainly something we needed after last week’s loss to Osceola.”
Despite the score of the game, Short added some praise for his opponent. “They are really a young team and they made some errors tonight. But Coach Roberts has some really good players over there. #7 …the running back … (Christian Charity) is a beast and is hard to tackle. They never quit and I believe when they get some more experience they will be a tough team to handle in the future.”
Charity (10-72) and Fuller (12-73) both had good nights rushing for the Panthers and sophomore quarterback Markis Hill did a solid job with the Panther offense before leaving the game late in the second quarter with a possible concussion.
Gateway (0-6) will travel to undefeated Lake Wales (6-0) for a district game next week. St. Cloud has scheduled a replacement game for a contest lost earlier in the year to Hurricane Ian. They will play Tru Prep Academy (0-4) from Miami on Thursday night. “Our goal is to win the final four games of the season and finish at 7-3,” Short said. “I told the players after the game that we need to take it one game at a time.”
SC: Terrance “TJ” Griffin 1 run (Adrian Gonzalez kick); 7-0
SC: Alex Springs 45 pass from Logan King (Gonzalez kick), 14-0
SC: Griffin 62 run (Gonzalez kick), 21-0
SC: Bryce Williams 70 fumble return (Patrick Forsythe run), 29-0
SC: Gonzalez, 42 FG, 32-0
SC: Griffin16 run (Gonzalez kick), 39-0
SC: Jonathan Morales 11 run (Gonzalez kick)