Kowboys’ win sets district showdown with Lake Nona Friday

The Celebration Storm dropped a heart-breaking 40-36 decision to Cypress Creek on Friday night.

OSCEOLA 13, Manatee 0

Ja’Randy Swint raced 37 yards for a touchdown on Osceola’s first play from scrimmage and a stingy Kowboys defense recorded its fourth consecutive shutout to lead Osceola to a 13-0 road win over Manatee.

Although the Kowboys dominated the game and time of possession and rushed for almost 390 yards, the offense managed just a pair of field goals for the rest of the game from kicker Spencer Richards.

“It was a strange game,” Head Coach Doug Nichols said.  “It was a sloppy, rainy night and although we controlled the ball for most of the contest, we just weren’t able to finish some drives.  Fortunately when we turned the ball over, it seemed like our defense just took it back for us.”

Swint had a huge night running the ball, gaining 209 yards on just 18 carries. Dewayne McGee added 97 yards on 12 totes, while the Kowboys team averaged 7.8 yards per carry on 51 attempts.

Osceola (7-1, 3-0) will close out the regular season on 7 p.m. Friday night when they host Lake Nona (6-2, 3-0) with the winner claiming the Class 8A District 6 title and the accompanying automatic playoff bid. Lake Nona, a 62-7 winner over Freedom, brings a two-game winning streak into the contest and has averaged 38 points a game this season behind an offensive passing attack led by quarterback Conner Johnson who has thrown 28 touchdown passes this year.

“They are a talented offensive team and they can chuck the ball around pretty good,” Nichols said. “The key for us will be to put some pressure on him up front and for our defensive backfield to keep playing the same solid assignment football they have been playing this year.”

Osceola’s defense has been dominant this season, recording five shutouts on the year and not allowing more than 17 points in any game. Its first unit has allowed just four touchdowns and its defense is giving up just 5.6 points per game.

“Our defense has really picked it up this year,” Nichols added. “Defensive coordinator Scott Spencer and the coaches on that side of the ball have done a great job for us.  To be honest, I just try to stay out of their way and let them do their thing.”

TOHOPEKALIGA 28, HARMONY 7

Sophomore quarterback Tyler Wesley tossed a pair of touchdown passes and Kareem Dinzey picked off two passes, returning one for a touchdown as Tohopekaliga evened its season record at 4-4 with a 28-7 win over Harmony.

Tahquis Armstrong got the Tigers on the board first with a 68-yard touchdown run. He would later add a 59-yard touchdown reception from Wesley, who also fired a 12-yard touchdown pass to Aheem Dinzey as the Tigers built a 21-0 lead.

Harmony QB Chris Skeldon would cut the lead to 21-7 with a 3-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, but the Toho defense pitched a shutout the rest of the way and Kareem Dinzey would close out the scoring with a fourth quarter pick-six.

Toho Head Coach Marc Deas said he was pleased with his team’s performance on Friday but not necessarily his team’s 4-4 record.

“We played a solid four quarters of football and I was certainly happy with the win. We are still a young program in our second season, and our guys are still learning how to do the little things it takes to win consistently. Our goal was to make the playoffs this year, and frankly we lost some games this season because we didn’t always do those little things you need to do to win.  We have two home games left and we hope to finish strong.”

Tohopekaliga plays host to Celebration at 7 p.m.  The Longhorns (2-6) face St. Cloud in the Soldier City Classic (see preview this issue).

 Bartow 49, POINCIANA 13

Lin Johnson threw for three touchdowns and rushed for another to lead Bartow (5-3) to a 49-13 win over host Poinciana (3-5) on Friday night.   

Poinciana fell behind early, before a pair of Justin Carpenter touchdown passes of 48 yards to Zayveon Mitchell and 18-yards to Treyvion Gunter cut the lead to 20-13 midway through the second quarter.

But Maurice Bell returned the ensuing kickoff 60-yards for a touchdown and the Eagles failed to muster any offense in the second half.

For the game, Carpenter completed 18 of 25 passes for 214 yards and two scores. He also rushed for 46 yards on just six carries.  Jeremiah Jules had 53 yards for the Eagles on 11 carries.  

“Offensively we played a pretty good game against a really good team,” Poinciana Head Coach Randy Beeken said. “Our inability to get some defensive stops really hurt us again. It’s been the same story for the last three weeks. We don’t have a lot of depth and the better teams we have played the last three weeks have tended to wear us down in the second half.”

Poinciana (3-5) travels to Liberty (0-8) this week in the annual Battle of the Boulevards. Poinciana has never defeated the Chargers, losing all 12 games in the series dating back to 2007.

“It’s my understanding that the first game was fairly close (a 18-16 Liberty win in 2007) and they have all been fairly lopsided since then,” Beeken said. “Based on how we have played this year, this may be our best chance to win this game, but it will not be easy. Coach Pennington may have the best 0-8 team in the state of Florida. Our defense is going to have to play a lot better than it has over the last three weeks.”

 Lake Gibson 33, LIBERTY 0

The Liberty Chargers (0-8) remained winless on the year, falling to undefeated and eighth ranked Lake Gibson (8-0) by a 33-0 score.  

Logan Hackett threw a pair of touchdown passes and the Braves running attack amassed more than 300 rushing yards and two more scores on the night.

Liberty will attempt to win its 13th consecutive Battle of the Boulevard trophy this week when it hosts Poinciana at 7 p.m. Friday.

“We have never lost the Battle of the Boulevard, but I am concerned that streak will be in jeopardy this week,” Liberty Head Coach Brandon Pennington said. “Talent-wise, Poinciana has the best team they have had in years, and Coach Beeken has done a great job turning that program around. Even though we haven’t won a game this year, I am worried about over-confidence this week.  Our kids know they have never lost a game in this series, and it is my job to hammer home the point this is not the same old Poinciana team.”

 Bayside 54, GATEWAY 20

The Gateway Panthers (0-8) fell into a 36-0 hole in the first half and never recovered, losing a 54-20 decision to Bayside (3-5) on Friday night.

One of the Panthers lone bright spots was the play of senior Philip Bangura, who accounted for all three of Gateway’s touchdowns, breaking off a pair of 25-yard scoring runs, and catching a 35-yard touchdown pass from Jerry Wright.  

Logan Bradham threw for three touchdowns and rushed for a fourth in leading Bayside to win.

The road does not get any easier for the Panthers, who host Auburndale (6-2) on Friday night at 7:30 p.m.

Cypress Creek 40, CELEBRATION 36

A late fourth quarter touchdown was too much to overcome, as the Celebration Storm (3-5) dropped a heart-breaking 40-36 decision to Cypress Creek on Friday night.

Celebration led for most of the game before a touchdown and two-point conversion tied it at 34-34 at the end of three quarters. Cypress Creek managed to forge a 40-34 lead in the fourth quarter on a 55-yard touchdown pass from John Mariani to Joe Gaither.  Celebration would later counter with a safety on a blocked punt but could not get any closer.

Will Bonn had another outstanding night at quarterback for the Storm. He completed 16 of 31 passes for 287 yards and two touchdowns and also rushed for 47 on 15 carries to account for 334 yards of total offense.

Lee Smith caught six of those passes for 117 yards and two touchdowns; Anthony Gonzalez was on the receiving end of five passes for 115 yards and a score. Freshman running back O’Niel Senatus had a huge night for Celebration, gaining 166 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown.    

The Storm travels to Tohopekaliga High School (4-4) for a Friday night non-district game.