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Osceola knocks off Lions
By Rick Pedone
Osceola finally returns to Kowboys field today at 7:30 p.m. to host Celebration after a five-week stretch of road games.
Osceola, 5-2 and 3-0, needs a victory today to stay undefeated in 7A District 6. Celebration is 0-7 and 0-3 after a 41-0 loss against Harmony.
OHS concluded its road trip with a crucial 7A-6 victory at Lake Nona last week, 35-21.
The Kowboys overcame three turnovers, a muffed punt and 120 yards in penalties with an impressive running game that totaled 403 yards. The Kowboys held the powerful Lake Nona offense to just 53 yards after the intermission.
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 192 yards and three touchdowns, and teammate Nazayah Brown, another sophomore, scooted around the edges nine times for another 108 yards and two touchdowns.
“Coach told us that if it was working, we’d keep doing it,” Wilson said.
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 186 yards (25-for-35) and only 47 yards in the second half as the Kowboys blanketed his favorite receiver, FSU commit Ryan Sousa. Sousa had eight 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 Kowboys average 104 yards in penalties and 2.5 turnovers through seven games.
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. he 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, but 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, tying the score at 21.
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 offense shrank (Israel was 8-of-11 for 47 yards).
Nichols said that Spencer and his staff make all the decisions about the defense.
“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 is a heavy favorite against the Storm today and the game counts in the district standings. The Kowboys, No. 10 in Class 7A, can clinch the district championship with a win today and another next week against Gateway.