Kowboys roll Lake Nona, 35-21
By Rick Pedone
Assistant Coach Mike Braun summed it up after Osceola’s 35-21 district 7A-6 win at Lake Nona Friday: “Nobody stops the Kowboys but the Kowboys.”
Four turnovers and 120 yards in penalties wasn’t enough to derail Osceola, 5-2 and 3-0, because when OHS wasn’t fumbling or being penalized, it was rolling over the Lake Nona defense to the tune of 433 yards, a bone-crushing 404 of those on the ground.
So dominant was the Kowboys running game that Lions Coach Anthony Paradiso, who gambled on fourth down plays five times, didn’t bother stopping the clock while OHS ground down the last 6:39 in the fourth quarter.
“Our offensive line got after some people. That’s a line that sometimes has three sophomores on it,” Osceola Coach Doug Nichols said.
Fullback Laderrien Wilson, also a sophomore, trucked the Lions defense 25 times for 185 yards and three touchdowns, and teammate Nazayah Brown, another sophomore, scooted around the edges seven times for another 84 yards and two touchdowns.
“Coach told us that if it was working, we’d keep doing it,” Wilson said. The Lions either never figured out how to stop Wilson’s bull rushes up the middle, or just decided to stop trying.
Meanwhile, the Kowboys defense clamped down after giving up 21 first half points, 14 of those coming off turnovers.
Lake Nona quarterback Tucker Israel, Central Florida’s passing leader averaging 340 yards per game, was held to 202 yards (25-for-33) and only 47 yards in the second half as the Kowboys blanketed his favorite receiver, FSU commit Ryan Sousa. Sousa had nine catches, but for just 39 yards. His first five receptions, mostly bubble screens, accounted for minus 1 yard.
Kowboys defensive coordinator Scott Spencer said he assigned senior defensive back Juaquan Jenkins the task of following Sousa wherever he lined up in the Lions spread set.
“We told him last weekend that was what we were going to do,” Spencer said. “We did it because he’s a heck of a football player. He’s always stepped up when you challenge him. We gave him a little help in the back, but we knew he’d be able to handle it.”
Jenkins didn’t disappoint the coaching staff.
He said he was excited when Spencer told him that he would man up on Sousa.
“I was ready. I wanted it,” he said. “He got me on a slant (for 17 yards) once, but it worked out OK. It might have been my best game this year.”
There’s no telling what the score might have been had Osceola held on to the ball and avoided the shower of penalty flags. Osceola did not punt.
“The stupid team won, and I guess I’m the stupidest of them all,” Nichols said. “I don’t know. One day we’re going to play a whole game, and it will be interesting to see what happens.”
The Kowboys have averaged about 100 yards in penalties through seven games, and they have routinely turned it over three or four times per outing.
Lake Nona drove 79 yards on 14 plays and Sousa sneaked one yard to give the Lions a 7-0 lead in the first quarter. The drive followed Osceola’s first turnover.
The Kowboys came back and tied the score, moving 75 yards on six plays, Brown’s 31-yard run setting up Wilson’s 19-yard TD dash.
The Kowboys muffed a punt at their 22, setting up the Lions’ next touchdown, a 2-yard run by Andre Hale, to put Nona up, 14-7.
Scooter Fagan’s 40-yard kickoff return to the Lions’ 39 set up a four-play scoring drive. Quarterback Daequan Harrison passed 29 yards to wide-open Akiel Hamilton to set up Brown’s 1-yard TD run to tie the score with 10:10 left in the half.
Lake Nona struck back when Israel found receiver Deondre Farrior between a pair of OHS defenders for a 38-yard TD play with 6:35 left in the half. But, again, OHS came right back, this time moving 60 yards in five plays. Wilson ran 28 yards and Brown motored 20 before Wilson plunged in from the 2 with 4:35 left before intermission.
Lake Nona, in a bizarre decision, went for fourth-and-4 from its 25 and came up empty with 2:33 left, but after the Kowboys moved to the Lions’ 8 and were poised to take the lead, back-to-back penalties moved the ball back to the 21 and Harrison was intercepted in the end zone.
“I don’t know what we were thinking there,” Nichols said.
In the second half, OHS kept on running (for 195 yards), but Lake Nona’s passing game shrank (Israel was 8-of-11 for 42 yards).
Nichols said he rarely concerns himself about the Kowboys’ defensive strategy. That is up to Spencer and the defensive staff.
“I don’t know what those guys are going to do. They get in their group and we get in ours (the offense) and we don’t see each other over the weekend,” Nichols said. “I just stay out of it. The second half is the reason why I do that. I’ve known (Spencer) long enough to know that whatever they need to do over there will get done.”
Osceola took the lead, 28-21, on Brown’s 2-yard run with 1:17 left in the third quarter, and after the Kowboys defense again stopped Lake Nona on a fourth-down play at the Lions’ 43, Wilson capped a seven-play drive with his third TD run from the 12-yard line.
“We worked hard this week. We were in pads three days and we went hard,” Wilson said. “Our offensive line did a great job. I just put my all into it.”
Lake Nona slipped to 4-2 and 2-1.
Osceola returns to Kowboys field Thursday against Celebration after playing five straight games on the road. Osceola can clinch its third straight district championship by beating Celebration and then Gateway Oct. 25.