Dewayne McGee scored three of his four touchdowns in the first half as the Osceola Kowboys built a 21-0 lead and held on to defeat the Lake Nona Lions, 35-17.
The win, Osceola’s seventh in a row, clinched the Class 8A, District 7 Championship for the Kowboys (8-1, 4-0). Lake Nona fell to 6-3 overall, 3-1 in district play. Osceola, which completed its regular season, will have an off week before hosting a Regional Quarterfinal playoff game on Nov. 8. It was Osceola’s 12th consecutive district title.
“Our first goal each year is to win our district championship and get to the playoffs and we accomplished that tonight,” Head Coach Doug Nichols said. “We’ll celebrate a little, take a couple of days off and get back to work next week.”
Things did not get off to a great start for Osceola. While the Kowboys went three and out on its first possession, Lake Nona’s offense was making two trips into the red zone.
But the Kowboys defense turned them away both times, and Osceola would take a 7-0 lead on McGee’s 52-yard touchdown reception from Davon Wells. The two would hook up again on a 20-yard scoring pass, but would lose Wells for the rest of the game when he was ejected for a second taunting penalty.
“He probably deserved the first one, but on the second one, it looked like he was just celebrating a good play by clapping his hands,” Nichols said. “But the official felt it was directed at an opponent and called a penalty.”
McGee would then stretch the Kowboy lead on the next possession, breaking through a tackle at the line and running 74-yards up the middle to put Osceola up 21-0.
Lake Nona would finally put points on the board on Jack Walker’s 40-yard field goal with 38 seconds remaining in the first half.
McGee’s 60-yard touchdown run made it 28-3 in the third quarter, before Roshaun Dudley broke three tackles and raced 20 yards for a fourth quarter score to put the Kowboys up by 32.
Lions quarterback Conner Johnson, who came into the game with 28 touchdown passes, would rally the Lions late. Johnson would fire an 18-yard TD pass to Ethan Johnson with 5:38 remaining. Lake Nona would then recover the ensuing on-sides kick, and one play later, Johnson would hit Andre Cooper on a 30-yard strike to reduce the deficit to 35-17.
Although Johnson would finish the game with 415 yards passing, the Osceola defenders did a good job of defending him. He completed just 19 of 48 passes on the night, was intercepted once and sacked five times. Osceola also had numerous pass break-ups.
“Our secondary did a great job, especially Mathew Mateo,” Nichols added. “He’s a tenth grader that never played football before this year. He was on their big receiver all night and won most of those battles.”
McGee finished the game with 163 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving to go with his four touchdowns. His two touchdown receptions gave Osceola 16 passing touchdowns this season, the most in a single season during the Nichols Era.
“Dewayne deserves a lot of credit for that. After struggling last season trying to catch the ball, he worked his butt off this summer to become a better receiver. We’ve targeted him about 20 times this year and he’s only dropped one.”
Other than the two long runs by McGee and the 20-yard run by Dudley, Osceola’s vaunted running game had trouble moving the ball on the ground— gaining just 86 yards on their other 33 carries.
“They gave us some different looks on defense and made it tough to run the ball. That’s why it’s important for us to be able to throw the ball a little,” Nichols added.
Wells and sophomore Blake Birchler finished the game six of 10 for 157 yards and the two touchdowns.