Sports Editor

Quarterback Davon Wells and running back DeWayne McGee combined for 232 rushing yards and four touchdowns to lead the Osceola Kowboys to a 34-14 win over St. Cloud in the 96th renewal of one of the oldest rivalries in the state of Florida.

 “When I first got here, the county consisted of us, St. Cloud and Gateway, so yes, this game still means a lot to me personally and means a lot to our players,” a smiling Osceola Head Coach Doug Nichols said about the win.  “I guess you could argue with the county getting bigger and more and more high schools opening it may not mean as much to the county in general, but I know every player who has ever played in this game and every coach who has ever coached in this game, understands its significance and how important it is to us.”

Although Osceola continued its dominance in the game, winning for the 13th straight time and upping the all-time series lead to 65-27-4, St. Cloud dominated the first quarter. Picking up four first downs on its first drive and recovering a fumble on Osceola’s second series, the Bulldogs kept the ball for all but two minutes of the first period.

 But two big sacks by Osceola stalled the first Bulldog drive and Najah Sylvester interception and long return to the 10-yard line, set up a short touchdown run by Jamison Jones as the Kowboys grabbed a 7-0 lead despite being on the sidelines most of that first quarter.

Osceola’s defense was stifling in the second quarter, forcing another turnover and three more sacks to set up the Kowboys offense in good field position.  Wells, who finished the game with 80 yards on just four carries, scored on touchdown runs of 6 and 14 yards and McGee added a 12-yard run as Osceola built a 28-0 lead.

 “We came out and did what we wanted to do in the first quarter but we just did not finish our drives,” St. Cloud Head Coach Bryan Smart said.  “When you fail to take advantage of your opportunities, a team like Osceola is not going to let you off the hook. They really pounded us on the ground in that second period, but I felt we still had a chance.”

That chance came late in the second quarter as Seth Johnson broke off 39 yard run and quarterback Korron Perrin scored on a two-yard run to cut the gap to 28-7 at the half.

The Bulldog defense then recorded two quick stops in the third quarter but its offense failed to move the ball.  On Osceola’s third possession of the second half, McGee broke loose on a 38 yard touchdown run to make it 34-7.

Osceola would play its reserves for most of the fourth quarter and St. Cloud was able to tack on a late touchdown on Johnson’s 14-yard reception for the final margin of victory.

“I could not be prouder of our kids,” Smart added.  “We lost 20 of 22 starters off of last year’s team and we are playing a lot of young, inexperienced guys.  But we never quit and we played hard for the entire game.  Unfortunately, we also had a bunch of kids cramping up during the game and we certainly don’t have the depth that Osceola does.  But give them a lot of credit, they are big, strong, physical and well-coached and we did not have an answer for their run game or their front four on defense.”

McGee finished with 152 rushing yards on just 11 carries as the Kowboys rushed for 339 yards on 34 carries. In addition to breaking 13 plays of 10 yards or more, its defense forced two turnovers and nine tackles behind the line of scrimmage.

“I was a little worried about this game coming in because we were only able to practice a couple of hours this week because of the weather,” Nichols said.  “Overall, I thought we played fairly well, but I was a little disappointed with how we came out in the second half.  Not sure whether we are relaxing a little too much because we had the lead, but we need to understand that we can’t let our foot off the gas too early.”

Osceola returns to action Friday night against Viera; while St. Cloud squares off against in-county rival Gateway, who lost Friday, 41-21, to Harmony.

Other county scores:

Harmony 41, Gateway 21

Freedom 36, Celebration 7

Mulberry 7, Poinciana 0

Dixie Hollins 32, Tohopekaliga 6

Bye week: Liberty