By: J. Daniel Pearson
Week seven of the high school football season rolls on this week with several interesting games; while the first two Orange Belt Conference team championships will be contested this week. Take a look around high school sports in Osceola County this week.
Five of the county’s eight public high school teams will be in action this week, with three others hitting their “bye” weeks.
The most intriguing game will occur when Tohopekaliga (4-1) hosts Orlando Christian Prep (6-0), a small school currently ranked #8 in the state in Metro 1. Prep and Tohopekaliga have played two common opponents this year, with very similar results. Orlando Prep defeated Liberty (52-6) and Foundation Academy (32-14) earlier this season; as did Tohopekaliga by similar margins — (Liberty, 56-6) and Foundation (49-21).
It should be an interesting matchup between the passing game of the Tigers (427 yards per game) and the rushing attack of Orlando Christian (224 yards per game).
The Tigers won for the fourth time in five games last week, blasting Celebration, 42-0, in a game that went to a running clock at halftime. Sophomore Sabby Meassick had another huge game with a career-high 587 yards passing and six touchdowns. He had two receivers go for more than 100 yards, including Julian Nasco (6-153-2 TD) and Delvin Pryor (5-176-2 TD). Meassick continues to pile up video-game type numbers with 5168 yards and 64 touchdown passes in just 15 career games at Tohopekaliga.
Harmony (1-4) will have its hands full when travels to Hagerty (3-2) for a non-district game on Friday night. The Longhorns lost their third straight last week to Melbourne – spoiling an outstanding effort where they allowed just 14 points. Hagerty also lost, dropping a decision to Winter Park by the same 14-0 score. “It’s going to be a tough challenge,” Longhorns coach Nick Lippert said. “They are a big and strong on both the offensive and defensive lines and they have a solid quarterback. What’s really amazing is their depth, they graduated 27 seniors last year and have 29 on the roster this year.”
Lippert praised his defense in the loss to Melbourne. Both touchdowns allowed came on short fields with drives of just 25 (set up by a turnover) and 2 yards (off a long punt return). “Our defensive line did a great job getting after their quarterback and Ian Bingham was outstanding at linebacker,” Lippert said. “Unfortunately, that defensive effort was spoiled because we simply could not get anything going on offense. It seems like every time we got a big play, we followed it with a negative play or a penalty.”
In the only game involving two in-county opponents, St. Cloud (2-3) will host Gateway (0-5) in a game at Hickory Tree. Traditionally a rivalry game, St. Cloud has dominated this series of late. The Bulldogs have won the last four games, outscoring the Panthers 141-32 in the process. Both teams are coming off losses. St. Cloud had no answers for Osceola in the 100th playing of that rivalry – losing 49-3. Gateway managed to score a season-high 28 points but lost to Liberty, 35-28.
Poinciana (2-3) returns to action on Friday with a match-up at Davenport (2-3). The Eagles enter the game after dropping a 54-18 decision against Foundation Academy in a game where Poinciana turned the ball over four times in the first quarter and fell behind, 32-0. “The beginning of the game was just a disaster for us,” Coach Randy Beeken said. “After that we settled down, we played them pretty evenly but you simply can’t fall that far behind and expect any other outcome.”
Beeken added “We pretty much played like we practiced this week. We had some kids out, we had some coaches that had to miss practice and we simply did not have a very good week of work. It is so true you play like you practice.”
In the game for Foundation, Michael Dove threw for four touchdowns and running back JT Bronough ran for 215 yards and scored five times. Offensively for the Eagles, Ernest Nunn (60-yard TD reception), Elijah Bowser (80-yard TD reception) and Will Nezius (12 yard run) scored.
In order to even their season record, Beeken added his team would have to get back to assignment football on defense and take better care of the ball on offense. “If we play like we’re capable of, I would have a lot of confidence of a win this week, but if we play like we did last week, it could be another long night.”
Bye Week: Liberty, Celebration and Osceola.
Liberty hits their bye week after defeating Gateway for their second win in a row. Head coach Dee Hart said he was extremely pleased with his team’s effort as they built a 28-7 lead after three quarters and cruised to the win. QB Jeremiah Pierre-Louis ran for one score and threw for another in the win. Josh Alezi, who was benched for the first half for off-field discipline, came back in the second half and had a 70-yard pick six and 60-yard touchdown reception. “I was so proud of Josh because I was interested in seeing how he would accept sitting in the first half. He stayed engaged in supporting his teammates from the bench and then came out and made big play after big play in second half.” By building a lead, Liberty was able to play a lot of their younger players in the fourth quarter “getting them some valuable experience,” according to Hart.
Osceola routed St. Cloud in the 100th playing of The Game. Taevion Swint had a huge game with 165 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He accounted for almost 200 total yards on just 11 touches. The Kowboys defense allowed just a 36-yard field goal by Adrian Gonzalez and forced three turnovers in the game. At 1-0 in the district, the Kowboys (1-5) can still qualify for the post-season with wins over Celebration in two weeks and Tohopekaliga on Oct. 27.
After a one-year hiatus due to some scheduling conflicts, the Orange Belt Conference volleyball championship tournament returns on Monday with quarterfinal action. Osceola (14-5), the top-seed in the tournament, will be the favorites to win this year’s tournament.
An FHSAA Class 7A semifinalist at the state tournament last year, the Lady Kowboys are starting to peak with victories in 10 of their last 12 matches – including a straight set road win over Bishop Moore, the state’s third ranked team in 4A last week. The only losses since early September where to 7A top 5 teams Hagerty and Timber Creek on the road.
Coach Carrie Palmi may be building something very special at Osceola, as her attack is led by a trio of sophomores in daughter Cate Palmi (315 kills), Jordin Southall (246 kills) and Sophia Spivey (98 kills). Middle blockers include 6-4 freshman Brooklyn Sippio (46 total blocks) and sophomore Mikayla Mathews (51 total blocks). Top Libero Dari Bravo (246 digs) is also just a sophomore.
“We are a young team but we are really starting to play well as a team,” Cate Palmi said. “When we stay focused as we did against Bishop Moore last week, I think we can be as good as anyone in the state.”
Under first-year head coach Hiram Padilla, Tohopekaliga (16-3) is the second seed in the OBC Tournament. Celebration (3-2) is third and Harmony (11-8) is the fourth seed. Quarterfinal matches are Monday at the highest seed, semifinals and consolations are Tuesday and St. Cloud High School will host the third place and championship matches on Thursday. The complete OBC Schedule:
2023 Orange Belt Conference Volleyball Championships
Oct. 2, Monday Quarterfinals (All Games 7 p.m.)
Game: 1 #8 Liberty (2-7) at #1 Osceola (14-5)
Game 2: #6 Gateway (10-6) at #3 Celebration (3-2)
Game 3: #5 Gateway (10-6) at #4 Harmony (11-8)
Game 4: #7 St. Cloud (4-15) at #2 Tohopekaliga (16-3)
Oct. 3, Tuesday Semifinal and Consolations (All Games 7 p.m.)
Game 5: Winner 1 vs. Winner 2 (at highest seed)
Game 6: Winner 3 vs. Winner 4 (at highest seed)
Game 7: Consolation Round, Loser 1 vs. Loser 2 (at highest seed)
Game 8: Consolation Round, Loser 3 vs. Loser 4
Oct. 5, Thursday Championship and Placement
7th Place: Loser 7 vs. Loser 8 (at highest seed), 7 p.m.
5th Place: Winner 7 vs. Winner 8 (at highest seed), 7 p.m.
3rd Place: Loser 5 vs. Loser 6 (at St. Cloud High School), 5 p.m.
Championship: Winner 5 vs. Winner 6 (at St. Cloud High School), 6:15 p.m.
The Orange Belt Conference Championships are slated for 10 a.m. Thursday (Oct. 5) at the Markinson Aquatic Center on John Denn Road. Harmony will be going for their fourth straight team title and ninth in the last 10 years; while the Longhorn boys team will try to defend their title against Celebration. Complete results will be available at positivelyosceola.com on Thursday evening.