Sports Editor

OHS vs Manatee playoff game

Osceola defenders Jaylon Harris (15), Malachi Wilson (20) and Mario Kendricks (22) converge on Manatee running back Kyree Jones in Friday's 28-17 Region 8A-2 playoff quarterfinal.

The Osceola Kowboys played from behind the entire night in their Region 8A-2 quarterfinal playoff game against Bradenton Manatee, and lost, 28-17.

It's the second first-round exit from the playoffs in three years for a team that's been in the playoffs annually since 2007 and been to the state championship game three times in that span.

Meanwhile, the Hurricanes (7-4) will travel to Sarasota Riverview, a 41-22 winner over Treasure Coast in next week's regional semifinal.

While Osceola (9-2) possessed and moved the ball at will, it couldn't break into the end zone from the red zone, or take advantage of three forced turnovers. On the flip side, Manatee used a handful of big plays to score or set up scores when they did get the ball.

"When you get turnovers and can't score off of them ... that's our speech every Thursday," Osceola Coach Doug Nichols said. "If you get three of them you should win the game. We just didn't take advantages of opportunities we got and hurt ourselves with penalties."

Yes, those penalties hurt, to the tune of 13 calls for 110 yards; Osceola had two touchdown runs called back for flags when their first drive of the night was extended when Manatee muffed a punt return.

Manatee fired off its first big play when Irone Jackson got just open enough for Anthony Squitiri to hit him on a 68-yard scoring strike eight minutes into the game. Osceola answered with a 28-yard Spencer Richards field goal, but Squitiri fired again to extend the lead, hitting Wes Coleman on a 51-yard pass and then Keyon Fordham on a nine-yard slant route for a touchdown that made it 14-3 at the half.

"I didn't say much or change much at halftime, because I felt like we could keep moving the ball, and that if we came out and got a defensive stop and a score we'd have changed the whole ballgame," Nichols said.

But the Hurricanes scored to open the third quarter when Fordham took a jet sweep, snuck through a receiver-sized hole and went 51 yards to the house to make it 21-3.

Osceola quarterback Devon Wells went 39 yards on the Kowboys' next drive to set up Dwayne McGee's 37-yard touchdown run that gave OHS life, but Manatee answered with a 79-yard drive ended by Squitiri's one-yard scoring sneak.

Osceola kept fighting, and made it 28-17 on the first play of the fourth quarter when Wells hit Colton Weismore over the middle for a 30-yard touchdown pass, and then linebacker Kiyante Harrison recovered a fumble at the OHS 36 with 10:57 left in the game. But Osceola's last two drives ended with a dropped pass on fourth down and an interception by Manatee's Dre Evans that dashed any hopes of a comeback.

Osceola ran the ball 55 times for 311 yards, led by Wells (19-130) and McGee (15-99), and held Manatee's ground game in check. But the Kowboys could not stop Squitiri, who hit 8-of-11 passes for 167 yards.