Early season games are fickle. Depending on the schedule, expectations, district vs. non-district, and a thousand other factors, early season games normally will not define what type of season a team will have or hope to have.
Still, Harmony (3-0) and head coach Don Simon is not down-playing the importance of Friday night’s non-conference road game against Eau Gallie (4-0). “First of all this is our last game before we get into district play and our first district game is going to be the next week against Melbourne – a team very similar to Eau Gallie. It will give us a good measuring stick to where we are right now and where we need to get to. Second of all, Harmony has not gotten off to a 4-0 start since 2006. Our players are aware of this, are excited about it and understand what they are going to have to do to get to that point.”
It will not be an easy task.
Led by quarterback Mari Crooms (completion percentage 69%), a pair of talented running backs in Delonte Williams and Tay Welch; and two outstanding receivers in Baker Alvarez and DJ Jordan, Eau Gallie will come into the game with an offense that has been averaging 45 points a game. On defense, the team has allowed less than 10 points a game.
“Big, fast, strong on both sides of the ball,” Simon said about this week’s opponent. “Right now I would say we are on schedule as far as where I hope we would be at this point in the season. That said, Friday night’s game with Eau Gallie is going to be a tremendous challenge for us. Like our last game with Palm Bay, this is going to be a slugfest.”
Harmony is coming off a bye week after a last second pass defense on a two-point conversion preserved a 13-12 win over Palm Bay.
Osceola (1-2) is off to its worst start since 2005, when it lost its first five games on the way to a 2-8 season. But unlike that season, both losses have came to two of the best teams in the state – an overtime loss to 4-0 Seminole (ranked #2 Metro 4A) on Sept. 9 and on the road last week to 4-0 Lakeland (ranked #2 Suburban 4A).
Although the Kowboys will face another state powerhouse on the road this week in undefeated and 4-0 Rockledge (#1 Suburban 3A), there is no panic in the Osceola camp. “Bottom line is we have played two of the best teams in the state, one of those on the road, and we were couple of plays away from winning both games,” Coach Eric Pinellas said. “When I put this schedule together, I preached from the beginning that going undefeated was not the goal. Our goal is to get better every week and by the time we get to the post-season, we are going to be battled tested and we are not going to see any more talent than we have seen in the regular season.”
Tohopekaliga (3-0) remained undefeated last week with a 47-6 blitz of St. Cloud (2-2) as freshman quarterback Sabby Meassick continued his incredible start to his Tiger career with a 23 of 32 passing night for 323 yards and six touchdowns in the win. For the season, Meassick has now thrown for just under 1000 yards (998) with 18 touchdowns and no interceptions in his first three games.
But it was the running of Chruandy Duval that St. Cloud coach Mike Short said surprised his team the most. Coming into the game, Tohopekaliga had ran the ball just 24 times all season. Duval rushed 25 times in the game for 226 yards and a score and also caught 75 yards in passes for two more touchdowns.
“We knew the young quarterback was phenomenal but we certainly were not ready for the running back. He was a lot bigger, stronger and more explosive than we thought he was. He just made their exceptional passing attack that much more effective with his running,” Short said.
Both teams should be favored to win this week as Tohopekaliga travels to Space Coast (1-2) and St. Cloud hosts Winter Springs (0-4) on Thursday night in its home coming game. “Our biggest concern is that it will be a short week and we most likely will be down two defensive starters and a key special teams player from concussions suffered in the Toho game,” Short said.
Poinciana (2-2) lost its second game of the season on Friday – dropping a 22-6 decision to undefeated Horizon (4-0) – a team Poinciana coach Randy Beeken anticipated having problems with. “To tell you the truth I felt they were going to be the most talented opponent on our schedule this season,” Beeken said. “But the fact is they really didn’t dominate us, our kids competed and our defense played sensational.”
The game was contested in driving rain storm, with the only Poinciana score coming on a defensive fumble scoop and score play.
The Eagles will attempt to get back on the winning track this week when they host Teneroc (0-4) on Friday night. “The big thing we will concentrate on this week is our offense,” Beeken said. “We need to get that back on track.”
After dropping a 47-7 decision to powerful Auburndale (2-0), the Gateway Panthers (1-1) travel to Ocala on Friday to face West Point (2-2) .
The injury bug bit the Panthers again in a 47-7 loss to district foe Auburndale. After losing projected starter Eli Azize in the spring to a severe leg injury, Hector Perez took over this fall but went down with a potential broken ankle and could also be lost for the year. Freshman Elijah Aponte stepped in and threw a 70-yard touchdown pass in the game. “He has some talent but he is very young,’ Roberts said. “He’s going to have to go a lot of growing up in the next couple of weeks because he’s all we really have.”
Celebration lost its fourth game in as many tries, dropping a 28-8 decision to Lakewood Ranch. The road will not get any easier for the Storm as they host Winter Haven (2-2) on Friday night. The two teams have played one common opponent this year, with Winter Haven taking a 7-6 win over Haines City last Friday; while the Storm dropped a 36-7 decision to the Hornet two weeks ago.
Liberty’s game (0-3) with Davenport (1-2) on Friday was postponed because of severe weather and will be played Monday night. It will be the first of two games this week for the Chargers, who travel to Deltona (4-0) on Friday. Quarterback Jeremiah Pierre-Louis (118 rushing yards), sophomore running back Jaylin Vaughan (141 rushing yards) and senior linebacker Matt Taylor (16 tackles) have been bright spots for the Chargers.