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Season-ending loss motivates Kowboys

Posted on Friday, August 11, 2017 at 8:58 pm

Mario Kendricks (left) is a member of Osceola’s highly-touted defensive line. Photo/Martin Maddock

By Rick Pedone
Sports Editor
Scattered around Osceola High’s football practice field are the players that have but one mission in mind – to win the Class 8A state championship.
Of course, that has been the mindset at Osceola for a long time, and four state championship game appearances over the past 19 years lend credence to that goal.
But, there’s not a player or a coach on the practice field who has forgotten one of the most disappointing evenings in OHS football history, the 28-27 first-round playoff loss to heavy underdog Treasure Coast last fall.
“We all remember that. It’s been what has motivated us through all of the offseason workouts,” offensive lineman Cameron Dwyer said last week while taking a short break from a mid-morning workout.
Quarterback Braxton Jones nodded in agreement.
“Like Cameron said, we all remember what happened in that game. The seniors, we’ve talked about it. We know that this is our last chance to win it,” he said. “It’s made us more focused.”
Kowboys Coach Doug Nichols at this stage isn’t too concerned about winning the state championship. For now, he expects nothing more from his team than a good performance each Friday night.
But, he knows that he has assembled one of the more talented and experienced teams under his direction as he enters his eighth season as the team’s head coach. With two state championship game appearances and four straight trips to the state semifinals from 2012-15, he knows what a state contender looks like.
“We’ve got everyone here who we figured we’d have as far as our starters,” he said.
Nichols said several players who might have seen some playing time transferred to other programs, but he isn’t asking for or expecting sympathy.
Jones is one of the most dynamic quarterbacks the team has had, a run/pass nightmare to defend. The offensive backfield is deep. Senior Malcolm Davidson is the epitome of the backfield game-breaker, and when he takes a break, about four more excellent running backs can take his place.
The defense returns nine of 11 starters.
And, they all know how to win. While the loss to Treasure Coast stung, before that Osceola was 10-0 for the regular season.
The Kowboys talent is such that there could be another logjam at the OHS auditorium for the next National Signing Day like there was in 2016, when 10 Kowboys signed grants.
Nichols said that the defensive linemen might be the best group he has ever coached, and several of them are underclassmen.
The potential question mark for the 2017 Kowboys is the offensive line, where only two veterans return. But, Nichols is confident that young players are ready to step in.
“We’ve got a couple of freshmen who I think are going to help us this season, maybe one or two of them right away,” he said.
The Kowboys will see how good they are right off the bat when they host Dr. Phillips, the Class 8A runner-up last season, for the Kickoff Classic Friday at 7:30 p.m.
The teams last met in the 2015 regional finals at Dr. Phillips, where the Kowboys won, 20-19.
All of Osceola County’s football programs will be in action Friday for their Kickoff Classics.
St. Cloud hosts Boone, Gateway visits Tampa Freedom, Clearwater Academy International goes to Poinciana, Fort Meade stops at Celebration, Harmony travels to Palm Bay Bayside and Liberty visits Palatka.

The Gateway-Freedom contest was incorrectly listed as a Gateway home game in Saturday’s print edition of the News-Gazette.