High school football teams don’t have district tournaments — they play out over the course of the regular season — but Harmony’s game Friday at Lake Nona at 7 p.m. up in Orange County has all the feel of a District 7A-5 championship game.
Both the Longhorns (6-1, 4-0 in 7A-5), after a 45-6 win Friday over Windermere (1-5, 1-3), and Lake Nona (5-1, 3-0), after a 42-0 win over Celebration, are undefeated at the top of the district going into Friday’s meeting.
A Longhorn victory would all but clinch the district — Harmony’s first title since 2007 — with a district game left to play next week against Celebration. Should the Lions win, they’d need subsequent wins over East River and Liberty to win the title.
Liberty has an outside chance of forcing a three-way playoff for district title if Lake Nona wins Friday and the Chargers win out, including an Oct. 26 date with the Lions.
Harmony Coach Don Simon said Friday’s game, which features a cranked-up Longhorns offense and a Lake Nona passing attack led by Wake Forest committed quarterback Michael Kern, “A great game for the fans and the players.
“We played them here last year in what turned out to be a wide-open offensive game (Lake Nona won, 34-21 by scoring the game’s final 13 points) and I expect more of the same next week. The game should come down to whichever defense can make those key stops. It’s not only for the district title but for the automatic playoff bid and first round home game.”
Should Harmony lose Friday, they’ll likely need to rely on playoff points to get onto the Region 7A-2 bracket, but Simon said at the start of the season that his team’s postseason hopes were pinned on winning the district. The Longhorns were ranked third (41.5 points/game) in the region heading into Friday’s game with Windermere where, for a second week in a row, Harmony’s offense had little problem putting up points against an over-matched opponent.
Justin Gleason rushed for 113 yards and three touchdowns and quarterback Nate Herstich accounted for 238 yards and two other scores. The Longhorn defense limited Windermere to less than 100 yards of total offense, forced four turnovers and for a second week in a row put points on the board, recording a pair of safeties on punt plays in the third quarter. Quarterback Isaiah Wilson, one of the area’s leading rushers, was held to a minus-11 yards on 13 carries.
Gleason gave the Longhorns a 7-0 lead on a 16-yard run and, following a fumble recovery, Herstich hit Caleb Bass on a 14-yard scoring play to make it 14-0. It was Bass’ 11th touchdown reception of the season, second highest among Central Florida receivers and extending his lead in that category in Osceola County.
Windermere cut the lead to 14-6 when Austin Hatcher broke three tackles and raced 82 yards for a touchdown, but it would be as close as the Wolverines would get to the lead or the end zone. Gleason added his second touchdown run of the game and, with time expiring in the first half, Hersitch would add a 3-yard touchdown run to put the Longhorns up 27-6 at halftime. He has now rushed for 257 yards and seven touchdowns in his last two games.
“It hasn’t been by total design but he has sort of become our workhorse back there,” Simon said. "He’s doing a real good job at running hard and finding the cracks.”