Gateway has the chance to end a pair of streaks Friday when it welcomes — term used loosely — Osceola on Friday in a high-stakes District 8A-7 game.
Outside of a forfeit win over the Kowboys in the early 1990s, the Panthers have not defeated the Kowboys on the field since 1988.
Despite Gateway (4-2, 2-0 in 8A-7) winning four straight coming into Friday, Coach Marlins Roberts said beating OHS will be, as always, a formidable task. But his team is looking forward to the challenge.
“We’ll have to be close to perfect,” he said. “They line up and just play solid football, particularly on defense.”
While the Panthers were on their bye week last week, the Kowboys (5-1, 1-0) saw a 29-game regular season winning streak snapped by Tampa Jesuit, who won 21-7 to move to 6-0 on its season. Coach Doug Nichols said his team, mostly on offense, “did it to ourselves.”
The Tigers (6-0) got their scores on a punt return, following a fumble recovery on a 10-yard “drive” and the 15-yard scoop-and-score of another fumble.
“We played well enough to win, especially on defense, we held them to about 55 yards rushing,” Nichols said. “We didn’t play well enough on offense. Jesuit played hard up front, and sometimes to have to give credit to the other team, but in many ways we got outcoached and that’s my fault.”
Osceola’s points came on Dwayne McGee’s 66-yard scamper around the left end that made it 14-7, and a ballgame. But that play alone accounted for nearly a third of the Kowboys yardage (196).
“I guess in a way if you’re going to have a game like this, do it in a game on the road, before the district games start where you really have to earn your paycheck, so to speak. We had a good day of practice Monday. The kids are really resilient.”
While their regular-season game streak ended last week, the Kowboys can keep a 35-game district game win streak alive Friday in a game that will feature two very good rushing attacks. While the Kowboys, as usual, are rolling it up to the tune of 285 rushing yards a game, the Panthers (272.2) nearly match that.
Osceola County’s top two rushers, Gateway’s Phillip Bangura (109 carries, 788 yards, 13 TDs, 114 total points) and Osceola’s McGee (69-776-8, 60) will be on display.
“They’re doing a really good job over there, they’ve got momentum,” Nichols said of the Panthers.
Gateway lost much if its young depth, and a few starters, this summer to Tohopekaliga High and to graduation, and Roberts said it’s taken his players a few weeks to come together.
“There’s now a belief in who is in the locker room versus who isn’t, whether they’re playing up the road or in college,” he said.