When is a rivalry not a great rivalry?
Some would argue when one team has been dominant for a long period of time, the rivalry loses some heat. For decades, the Osceola – St. Cloud game was considered the county’s top contest between in-county schools. But even though the game has been played 96 times, Osceola has dominated by winning 23 of the last 24 games and many consider the contest to no longer be the county’s biggest game of the year.
Instead, some would suggest this week’s Soldier City Classic is the biggest game of the year among Osceola County schools.
The St. Cloud Bulldogs (5-2-0) will host the Harmony Longhorns (2-5-0) Friday night in the 15th edition of the Soldier City Classic, where they will compete for the Brass Bugle trophy. Kickoff is 7:30 p.m.
Harmony leads the all-time series, 8-6, and has won the last two games – including a 56-9 blowout last season. The series began in 2005, the first year Harmony played high school football. When it opened, the school siphoned off a lot of students and athletes from St. Cloud High School, creating a natural rivalry.
The rivalry got off to a heated start when the upstart Longhorns won the first three games – including 68-7 and a 49-0 beat downs on the Bulldogs in the 2006 and 2007 games. St. Cloud would win four straight after that, including a 46-6 win in 2011.
It was then Harmony’s turn to control the series, winning three straight from 2012-14, including a memorable 12-7 nail-biter in 2013. Perhaps the most exciting game of the series came in 2017, when the Bulldogs scored a late fourth quarter touchdown but failed to convert a two-point conversion and lost a 35-33 thriller.
For Bulldogs Head Coach Bryan Smart, the game remains the biggest and most important one of the season for his players.
“When Harmony opened, they took a lot of students and athletes from St. Cloud,” Smart said. “In the early going, that set the stage for a great rivalry. Over the years, it evolved in the most anticipated game of the year for both schools. They (Harmony) are located right down the road from us. Our players know their players and they often played on the same youth teams in other sports. They are friends before the game and they will be friends after the game, but for those couple hours on Friday night they are not going to be friends.”
Smart added that although Harmony has struggled this season, he expects a hard-fought close game on Friday. “In rivalries, you often hear the cliché that you can throw out the record books, but in this case it’s definitely true. This game means so much to players on both teams. I don’t think it matters whether you are 8-0 or 0-8, the kids are going to come to play in this game. Don’t think for a minute that our players don’t understand that this game is going to be a battle. Coach Simon does a great job at Harmony and frankly he has had my number too.”
With a large crowd expected, fans are urged to get to the game early to get through parking and the ticket office.