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Kowboys out to avenge 2016 playoff loss

Posted on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at 6:02 pm

By Ken Jackson
Sports Editor
Despite assembling another undefeated regular season, you’d be hard-pressed to find a returning Osceola High player who feels the Kowboys are invincible heading into the Class 8A playoffs.
It was at this spot last year, after polishing off a 10-0 regular season, that the Kowboys were tripped up by underdog Treasure Coast, 28-27, in the first round thanks to a missed PAT and, likely larger, four turnovers. It ended the march toward a possible, and rare, third straight trip to the state finals at Camping World Stadium in stunning fashion.
Osceola (9-0) will start the climb back to the Class 8A finals Friday at home against Bradenton Manatee at 7:30 p.m.

Da’Nas Pinellas, shown leaping a Gateway defender in October, is one of the ballcarriers the Osceola Kowboys will rely on as the Class 8A playoffs start Friday, against Bradenton Manatee. News-Gazette Photo/Martin Maddock

The Kowboys’ low-stress 25-8 win last week over Lake Brantley completed another perfect regular season, but more importantly clinched the No. 1 seed in Region 2, meaning Osceola will play at home at least the first three weeks of the playoffs and won’t leave the area code the rest of the season.
Running backs Jakobe Thomas and Malcolm Davidson, who scored two touchdowns along with Pat Kelly on short runs, returned after missing time with injuries, helping OHS roll up 282 rushing yards (301 total). Ten Kowboys ran the ball, led by quarterback Braxton Jones (seven carries, 104 yards), whose 62-yard second-quarter scamper set up a Davidson 12-yard run that put Osceola ahead 12-0.
With that behind them, Coach Doug Nichols is hoping that the players impress on each — it’s better coming from each other than the adults — that to go 14-0 and win Osceola’s first state championship in 19 years, they must first go 10-0 on Friday.
“Coaching is overrated, it’s these senior leaders who set a tone,” he said. “We told the kids before they left Friday night to remember how they felt after the playoff loss last year, that it should motivate them to put in a good week of preparation.”
Manatee, off a 42-14 loss to state-ranked Venice, comes in with a spread offense led by senior quarterback Ryan O’Neill, who took over in midseason. Senior running back Joshua Booker (5-11, 220) has accounted for over 800 yards of offense and 15 touchdowns; he’ll remind locals of former OHS back LaDerrien Wilson. Wide receiver Jarvarious Pollock (19 catches, 273 yards) and Irone Jackson (11-180) are threats to pick up yards in chunks.
Osceola counters with a defense that has been playing at a high level; the Kowboys registered 21 consecutive scoreless quarters that ended late in Friday’s ballgame. That streak includes four straight shutouts in October and a total of 20 points surrendered in the past six games and just 68 all season.