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High School Football

Kowboys roll with defense, down Manatee, 44-16

Posted on Saturday, November 11, 2017 at 12:13 am

Panthers fall in Sarasota to Riverview, 60-15

By Ken Jackson
Staff Writer

The 2017 playoffs started with a bang — or whatever sound a defender makes bringing down a quarterback — at Kowboy Field Friday.

Osceola sacked Bradenton Manatee quarterback Ryan O’Neill nine times, forced three turnovers and held the Hurricanes to minus-19 yards rushing in a 44-16 Class 8A Region 2 quarterfinal victory.

The undefeated Kowboys (10-0) needed that defensive effort to overcome 150 yards in penalties and a pair of turnovers that resulted in 10 Manatee points and nearly changed the complexion of the game.

“We had six turnovers in nine games before this,” OHS Coach Doug Nichols said. “That and the penalties, that’s not us. When went in at halftime (leading 23-6), I told the guys to turn up the energy, because if it gets to 23-16 or 23-20, are you going to be able to shake that off?”

It did get to 23-16 with four minutes left in the third quarter — and the Kowboys did shake it off, forcing a pair of turnovers that helped Osceola score the game’s final 21 points.

Osceola moves on to host Dr. Phillips, a 35-7 winner over Ridge Friday and who the Kowboys defeated in the season-opening Kickoff Classic, in next Friday’s regional semifinal.

Early on it looked like a rout. It was 9-0 eight plays into the game after Manatee (5-4) went three-and-out and a punt snap sail through the end zone. After a Malcolm Davidson 25-yard sweep and two short Jakobe Thomas carries, quarterback Braxton Jones went 12 yards on a bootleg for a score. Osceola led 23-0 three minutes into the second quarter after Davidson and Thomas added touchdowns on a 16-yard run and a one-yard plow, the latter set up by Davon Wells’ 59-yard punt return to the doorstep.

O’Neill hit Irone Jackson on a 29-yard touchdown toss in the second quarter, and had Manatee driving before the half until Jaleal Maloney picked him off.

The second half began awful for the Kowboys, fumbling on two of their first three drives. The first resulted in another Jackson touchdown catch to make it 23-13, and the Hurricanes had first-and-goal at the OHS 9, but the Kowboy defense bowed up and forced an Axel Lepvreau 22-yard field goal, a small victory that turned the tide of the game.

“We knew we had to pick up the offense after they made a couple mistakes,” said linebacker Connor Parker, who broke up a pass during that stop. “They had gotten so close to the end zone and it was important to not let them get another touchdown.”

Said defensive end Mario Kendricks, who had two sacks Friday, “We just stayed focused on our assignments and just stuck to what the coaches were seeing and telling us.”

“That was a huge stop,” Nichols said. “It seemed to give us a lift.”

Did it ever. The offense answered in two plays: a 64-yard buck sweep by Da’Nas Pinellas, and a 16-yard trap by Tayquen Pinellas for a touchdown that made it 30-16 with 3:36 left in the third quarter.

Then the clamps went down; Osceola had five of its sacks in the fourth quarter.

“That D-line is special,” Nichols said.

Senior lineman Elliot Bodre, who had three sacks, said there was no thought to last year, when the Kowboys inexplicably lost to Treasure Coast in the playoff opener, when the game briefly started slipping away, in the defensive huddle.

“We talked about that earlier in the week, but it was like, ‘That’s not going to happen again,'” he said.  “We knew we had to hold them and we just played with a lot of energy, and just started shooting the gaps.”

In the fourth quarter, while Manatee’s offense went backwards, Osceola put the game away with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Da’Nas Pinellas and a Malachi Wilson 35-yard interception return.

The Kowboys ran for 280 yards on 35 carries, led by Da’Nas Pinellas (seven carries, 93 yards), Davidson (7-56) and Tayquan Pinellas (9-55). The Hurricanes managed just 103 yards.

PANTHERS FALL: Gateway, who entered the Region 8A-2 playoffs as a wild card, exited quickly Friday, losing to Sarasota Riverview, 60-15. Leading Rams rusher Ali Boyce ran for 160 yards and three touchdowns, while the Riverview (10-1) defense held Panthers (7-4) leading rusher, Philip Bangura, to 39 yards.

The Rams play Vero Beach next week; that winner will face the Osceola-Dr. Phillips winner in the Nov. 24 Region 2 final.