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Some good things happened at Kickoff Classics; OHS honors fallen officers

Posted on Wednesday, August 23, 2017 at 1:44 pm

St. Cloud running back Charles Robinson attracted a crowd at the Kickoff Classic. Photo/Rob Herbert

By Rick Pedone
Sports Editor

That was a very impressive Kickoff Classic win for Osceola’s football Kowboys last week against Dr. Phillips.
The teams were as evenly matched as the 30-27 score indicates, and if they play 10 times, they probably each win five of them.
Even more impressive for the Kowboys is the fact that they won using an offensive line that started two freshmen and two sophomores. No, Osceola didn’t roll over the DP defensive front, which is pretty good by the way. But, the Kowboys linemen did what they had to do, create enough room for the team’s hoard of excellent running backs to gain some yards. They will only get better.
The Panthers were able to move consistently against the Kowboys defense after the first quarter as DP quarterback BeShaun McCrey got in a groove. McCrey threw for 250 yards and a pair of TDs and rushed for another 51 yards. No point in lamenting his production because Osceola won’t be the last team victimized by his talents. He might be the best QB the Kowboys have seen since their deep playoff run in 2015. Plus, the Panthers have a good group of receivers who get major yards after the catch.
Osceola’s defense, which returns nine starters, was hampered Friday because lineman Mario Kendricks missed the game after a practice injury, and then another lineman, Boris Espinosa, injured an ankle early in the game. Linebacker Kiyantae Harrison also went to the sidelines with a leg injury but returned.
Even with that group on the sidelines, Osceola had a playoff-caliber defense on the field.
The game didn’t count officially, but it was a huge mental lift for an OHS team still reeling from last year’s early departure from the playoffs.
Kowboys Coach Doug Nichols said that, originally, the game was supposed to be three quarters varsity and then the subs for the final quarter.
“Well, we could see the way things were heating up that that wasn’t going to happen,” Nichols said.
Nichols chastised the team immediately after the game for becoming involved in a sideline fracas in the fourth quarter that cost OHS 30 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. DP was penalized 15 yards for the same incident, netting it 15 yards.
“We don’t do that,” Nichols told the team. “That doesn’t happen again. You get ejected, that’s six weeks you are out.”
Aside from that issue, Nichols liked his team’s resiliency and mental toughness.
“If we can play like that all year, we maybe might do some things down the line,” he said.
Dr. Phillips was ranked as high as No. 2 in the state in the preseason polls. Whether or not the Kowboys are a better team than the Panthers might not be decided until a potential rematch in the playoffs in three months.
But, if the preseason polls say that DP is a top 10 team, then so are the Kowboys, who have been ranked as high as No. 6 in the polls.
OHS will get plenty of chances to prove they belong among the state’s elite with a very testing schedule that begins Thursday at Class 6A state runner-up Lake Gibson.

… Of course, the outcome of last Friday’s football game is insignificant next to the tragedy of losing two Kissimmee police officers, gunned down in north Kissimmee even as the DP-OHS game wound to its conclusion.
The school is honoring the fallen officers – Matthew Baxter and Sam Howard – by selling “Kowboys Back the Blue” T-shirts at their home games starting Sept. 1. The T-Shirts also will be sold at Kissimmee City Hall Friday for $20, cash.
Howard, a former OHS player, often worked Osceola’s home games.
All proceeds from sales of the T-shirts will benefit the officers’ families.
Response on the Kowboys football Facebook page has been overwhelming.
The county’s other high schools also are saluting the fallen officers.
Perhaps they might also consider similar fundraisers.
There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that the Bulldogs, Longhorns, Storm, Chargers, Eagles and Panthers all support our law enforcement officers and are mourning their horrific loss.

… Harmony’s defense must have found some answers over the summer. After giving up over 300 yards rushing to Cypress Creek in the spring game, the Longhorns didn’t surrender a point in their dominating 41-0 Kickoff Classic win at Palm Bay Bayside last week.
The Horns offense showed flashes of potential in the spring and the team raced to a 27-0 lead in the first quarter last week.
Coach Don Simon’s first season at HHS might be a good one, yes?

Gateway was impressive in a big 27-7 win at Tampa Freedom last week. The Panthers led 20-0 after the first quarter. Coach Marlin Roberts has reservations because he isn’t sure how good the competition was, but anytime you can win by 20 points on the road – that ain’t bad.

And, Poinciana got off to a good start by downing Clearwater International, 29-13. Coach Ken Knapczyk said that his team needed to play well early. It did.
The Eagles play at Wide World of Sports today at 9 p.m. against Whittier Christian, Calf.

St. Cloud lost a tough 27-19 decision to Orlando Boone, but it was a good test for the Bulldogs against a potential Class 8A playoff team.
Nobody says that Coach Bryan Smart is ducking the competition. Friday, the Bulldogs venture to Lake Wales for the season opener and then they travel to Osceola.
Nothing is going to intimidate the Bulldogs after those games.

Liberty didn’t have a lot of luck at Palatka, falling 30-13, but Coach Doug Gabriel liked his team’s effort and its composure.

Celebration never got started in a 48-0 loss against Fort Meade. But, preseason games are opportunities to learn from your mistakes. The Storm must feel like they took the PSAT last week.
Coach Jay Sobke said that he used the game as an opportunity to evaluate his players.
The Storm have a big test Friday for their season opener at Sarasota.
“It’s a solid opponent and we’re looking forward to the competition,” Sobke said.
“We are continuing to improve and we hope to have more success this week.”