Hurricane worries wreak havoc on county football schedule

Tohopekaliga High wide receiver Demario Tolan, No. 8, takes the ball up the field against Poinciana.

Although Osceola County was spared any direct hit from Hurricane Dorian, the storm still created havoc on the local county football schedule, as three games were either cancelled or rescheduled.  

Harmony, which was scheduled to play at Palm Bay, saw that game rescheduled to Oct. 11.  The Osceola Kowboys marquee game with state runner-up Cocoa was cancelled, as neither team had a mutual open date to reschedule.  The Gateway vs. St. Cloud game fared better, as both teams had an open date on Sept. 27 to make up that game.

Of the games played last Friday, Sebring used a strong defensive effort to beat Liberty, 27-6 and Tohopekaliga, a new school that opened in 2018, matched its win total from a year ago with a 26-6 win over Poinciana.  Celebration was idle.

Toho (2-1) will have its hands full this week when they travel to St. Cloud (2-0). The Bulldogs, who were expected to be good offensively this year but had question marks on defense, have allowed just 13 points in two games this season and only six points against the first unit.

“It’s not what I expected early in the season, but I think we have struggled more on offense than defense. We’ve managed to score 61 points but a lot of those came on chunk plays or were set up by the defense or special teams,” Bulldogs Head Coach Bryan Smart said. “Our offense has just not clicked yet, it just seems to be a little off.  Defensively we’ve played above our expectations so far and that has been a pleasant surprise.  The two keys have been the play of our linebackers and the fact that everyone has accepted their roles and have continued to play hard.”

Smart noted that he was expecting a tough game against the Tigers.

“Coach Deas has done a fantastic job at that new school.  They are well-coached and very athletic,” he said.  We are going to need to be sharp in all three phases of the game this week.”

Because of only one practice day, Tohopekaliga had a rough time getting its offense on track against Poinciana.  And after an early turnover, Toho found itself trailing 6-0 midway through the second period before taking an 8-6 lead on a 26-yard scoring pass from Tyler Wesley to Blake McCullough.

The score remained 8-6 until the start of the fourth quarter when McCullough capped off a long-drive with a two-yard touchdown run. Wesley then fired a 25-yard touchdown pass to Dru Dickson and then added a third TD pass late in the fourth quarter to Ahmeen Dinzey for the final margin of victory.

Although disappointed that his team did not get to play Cocoa on Friday, head coach Doug Nichols was philosophic about the cancellation.

“It was a huge storm and you have to take it seriously,” Nichols noted. “Thankfully it did not have the impact on our community that it could have. We really wanted to play that game, but it was something out of our control.  We talked about playing on Monday but could not work out the details.”

As far as this week’s game with Celebration, Nichols noted his team would be ready.

 “It’s our first district game and we preach every year that the easiest path to the playoffs is to win the district.  As a team, our goal is simply to get better every week.  We improved from the season opening win over Harmony in Week 1 to the game with Columbus in Week 2,” Nichols said. “Now we need to get better in our district opener with Celebration.”

The Storm (1-1) will be heavy underdogs against the Kowboys.

“They have obviously been the gold standard in Osceola County for the last decade,” Storm Head Coach Jay Sobke said. “We told our kids they should look at this game as a great opportunity and challenge.  Our goal is to go out and play the best game we possibly can play.”

Although both Winter Haven and Liberty are off to 0-2 starts, Charger Head Coach Brandon Pennington says this will be a huge game in determining the district championship.

“We played two pretty good non-district opponents to start the season,” Pennington said.  “But right now I think both Winter Haven and Liberty can be very competitive in the district and this is a real important game for both of us.”

Pennington noted that his team played Sebring close for almost three quarters last Friday.  

“They were a playoff team last year and most likely will be again this year and we were only down 7-0 midway through the third quarter and even that first touchdown was aided by three penalties on third down that kept their scoring drive alive.  I think the big issue is that we have to play some kids both ways and when we play a team that had depth they can wear us down.”

Gateway (0-2) opens up district play Friday with a home game with Heritage (Palm Bay). Heritage is 1-1 this season, including a 32-14 win over Harmony two weeks ago. Poinciana had a bye week before playing Teneroc on Sept. 13.