OHS meets Fort Pierce Central
Kowboys aspire to match success of 2012 region finalist
By Rick Pedone
Two years after its most successful season, the Osceola Kowboys soccer team will host Fort Pierce Central for a 5A-3 regional quarterfinal today at 7 p.m.
There are a few constants between this squad, 13-5-1, and the Kowboys team of 2012 that went 22-7-1 and reached the regional finals.
The most important is the coach, Tom Bell.
And, five Kowboys who played in 2012 are back: Tim Elsterman, Austin Richards, Luis Medrano, Daniel Silva and Juan Quintana.
But, Bell said, just about everything else is different.
“No, they are nothing alike. That (2012) team was so quick. We don’t have a (forward) Maikel Bonilla, a Manny (Serrano), we don’t have that kind of team speed,” Bell said. “What we do have is a bunch of young children who play as a team. They have heart, and there is no replacing that.”
There is one big similarity between OHS teams of 2012 and 2014: outstanding goalkeeping. In 2012, the keeper was Jeanfred Santos, who earned an invitation to the Orlando City Lions developmental program. This year, senior Jonatan Cruz has been a dependable shutdown player for the Kowboys.
Osceola won the 5A-9 district championship Friday over Ridge Community, 1-0, on Alex Medina’s goal in the 72nd minute off an assist from Angello Rennella.”
Both players are sophomores.
“You can never count Ridge out. They’ve got a bunch of really good kids and I suspect we’ll see them Tuesday if we win,” Bell said. “I’ll welcome anyone who comes to play because they’ll be playing at our house, which means we’ve been winning the big games.”
Scoring opportunities in the first half Friday were few. In the 16th minute, Elsterman sent a free kick into the box, and after two deflections the ball rolled across the open goal mouth and harmlessly out of bounds. Ten minutes later, Ridge’s Edward Ontiveros sent a shot from the edge of the 8-yard box ringing off the crossbar. Shortly before halftime, Elsterman, just returning from an injury, went off after head-to-head contact with a Ridge defender on a corner kick.
“Same kid that blew him up the last time we played them,” Bell said, noting that a trainer said the midfielder was OK.
Bell said he didn’t draw up any adjustments at halftime to try to pump up the offense.
“I told them just to keep playing, keep doing what you’re doing,” he said.
It was the team’s third straight one-goal margin of victory at the hotly-contested district. The Kowboys won on overtime penalty kicks against Gateway in the semifinal round.
“These boys compete. They are young, so very young, but they give everything they have and I love working with them. It’s a great, great group to work with,” Bell said.
Fort Pierce Central brings an unimpressive 6-9-7 record to the regional game. It was the runner-up to Jupiter at the 5A-10 tournament.
The Cobras, however, are a mystery team to Bell.
“I’m trying to get some information on them, but right now I couldn’t tell you a thing about what they do,” Bell said.
“It really doesn’t matter. We have to do what we do, chase the ball all over the field. It’s worked for us up to now, so hopefully it will work again.”
Bell said playing in a difficult district, and against strong out-of-district competition like Winter Park and Sebastian River, has tempered his team.
“Oh, sure. Ridge, Celebration, Harmony, Gateway all are very tough competition. We were seeded No. 1 at the district, but we felt fortunate to come out of there with the championship against those teams,” Bell said.
Osceola would host the Jupiter-Ridge winner Tuesday in the semifinal round.
Ken Jackson contributed to this story.