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Kowboys have several starters to replace in 2018

Posted on Wednesday, November 22, 2017 at 12:27 pm

By Ken Jackson
Sports Editor

As soon as the Osceola Kowboys gathered following Friday’s 17-13 playoff loss to Dr. Phillips, and before they could start sulking at the buzz kill of an outcome, senior quarterback Braxton Jones, in his last time on that football field in uniform, barked out one final call to his team:
“Ya’ll are going to come back, and go to state,” he shouted after the team fell steps shy of a chance of a state title at Camping World Stadium.
If that happens, there will be a pretty good collection of graduated talent watching from the stands.
It will be led by Jones, the starting quarterback in OHS Coach Doug Nichols’ flexbone attack for two years, and the Kowboys’ punter for three.

Osceola quarterback Braxton Jones, shown running for a 41-yard touchdown in last week’s Region 2 quarterfinal loss to Dr. Phillips, was the starting QB for two seasons — never losing a regular season game — and the Kowboys’ punter for three.
News-Gazette Photo/Rob Herbert

Jones was asked less to be a passing threat and more to read defenses and keep the team’s rushing attack going. He finished the year rushing for 401 yards on 63 carries and five touchdowns, and throwing for 347 on 32-of-56 passing and five TDs.
His parting shot wearing No. 2 for Osceola was a 41-yard keeper on a third-and-8 play in the third quarter, where he reached the right edge, faked an option pitch and sprinted to the end zone to give the Kowboys a 10-7 lead in Friday’s regional semifinal playoff game against Dr. Phillips.
“That’s a kid that’s been here four years and been a leader ever since he stepped on the field, and was a leader as he stepped off it,” Nichols said.

A backfield that averaged 242.6 rushing yards per game — not as high as in years past, but enough to win 10 straight games against seven teams that made the playoffs and go toe-to-toe with Dr. Phillips — will see five of its top seven rushers graduate: Malcolm Davidson (64 carries, 554 yards, 11 touchdowns), Jones, Da’Nas Pinellas (55-387-3), Jakobe Thomas (74-386-4) and Pat Kelly (40-162-6).

Malcolm Davidson led the Kowboys in rushing yards and touchdowns in 2017.
News-Gazette Photo/Rob Herbert

Junior Tayquan Pinellas (76-434-3) and sophomore Dewayne McGee (43-223-4) return to the backfield.
Leading receiver Fillimore Wynter (10 catches, 130 yards, 4 TDs) graduates as well.
The offensive line should return mostly intact. Tackle Cameron Dwyer is the unit’s lone senior and young blockers like freshmen Delfin Castillo and Cody Carter, sophomores Regeus Brinson and Logan Owens and junior Kalil Holly saw plenty of playing time this year.
Three of the four members of the defensive line, who got to know opposing quarterbacks very well and made their Friday nights miserable — a unit Nichols called “a special group” after a nine-sack outing in the regional quarterfinal rout of Manatee — also graduate: Elliott Brode (a county-leading 16.5 sacks), Dion Bergan (9) and Jordan Redmond (6). Juniors Mario Kendricks (6 sacks, 3.5 in the playoffs) and Boris Espinosa return.
Defensive coordinator Ray Hines will also have to replace high-energy inside linebacker Connor Parker and a bulk of the secondary: cornerbacks Quayvon Brown and Kam Moore, safety Jaleal Maloney and jack-of-all-trades Trey Shine. Next year’s defense will be able to build around junior starters Kiyante Harrison at linebacker and defensive back Malachi Wilson, who returned an interception for a score against Manatee.
While Nichols will have to find another punter, special teams are in otherwise pretty good hands. Placekicker Marcos Espana (four field goals, 50 points) is a junior, and sophomore Davon Wells, who should also be in the mix to replace Jones at quarterback, was a dependable kick and punt returner this season.
“It’s going to be hard to replace this group of seniors. People think we’re going to be devastated, but we’re not,” Nichols said. “We’ve had back-to-back good freshman teams, and we’ve got guys on the JV team who are smart and talented. The cupboard’s not bare.”