For a second consecutive week, the Osceola Kowboys struggled in the first half and found itself in a 7-7 game at halftime with the Lake Nona Lions.
But Ja’Randy Swint would rush for two second half touchdowns and Osceola’s defense would limit the high-flying Lake Nona offense to just 35 second half yards in a convincing 34-7 road win.
It was anything but easy for the Kowboys, who went to 5-1 with the win.
Osceola quarterback Chad Mascoe had the ball slip out of his hand in the first quarter and Lake Nona returned the fumble 13 yards to its 25. A couple of pass interference penalties kept the drive alive and five plays later, Aiden Platon scored on a fourth down run to give Lake Nona a 7-0 lead.
The scored remained the same until midway through the second quarter, when sophomore wide receiver Ja’Keem Jackson out-jumped a Lions defender to pull in a 26-yard touchdown pass to make it 7-7 at the half.
“I’m not sure why, but we have to do a better job at getting our kids focused at the start of games,” Kowboys Head Coach Doug Nichols said of his team that led Tohopekaliga just 2-0 late in the second quarter a week ago. “I guess the good news is that we lit a fire under them at halftime and we responded.”
The Kowboys not only responded, but responded in a big way.
Taking the second half kickoff, Osceola marched 65 yards on six plays to take a 14-7 lead. Swint finished the drive on back-to-back runs of 23 and 14 yards. On Osceola’s next possession, Mascoe set up a touchdown with a 46-yard pass to Massimo Rubera, and Swint capped the drive with a five-yard run to make it 21-7.
Osceola would put the game away on its next possession. After holding on downs, Swint rushed twice for 44 yards before Mascoe called his own number from 16 yards out and suddenly it was 28-7. Back-up quarterback Blake Birchler would then cap the scoring on a 53-yard run on a read-option play for the 34-7 final.
In all, the Kowboy defense was dominant in the second half, allowing the Lions to gain just 35 net offensive yards on 20 plays. Overall, Osceola allowed just 118 total yards in the game – including just 13 net rushing yards; while sacking Platon five times. It was the fourth time in six games the Osceola defense did not allow a touchdown.
Swint finished the game with 141 rushing yards on 14 carries and two scores. Mascoe was 9 of 11 passing for 150 yards and one score and rushed for 42 yards and another score. Overall, Osceola outgained the Lions in total yardage, 449 to 118.
Osceola next travels to Vero Beach (5-2). After losing to Treasure Coast 17-16 three weeks ago, the Indians have won two of their last three – dropping a narrow 30-29 decision to Clearwater Academy last week.
“Like Nona, they like throwing the ball all over the place,” Nichols added. “It’s an offense that can present challenges to us.”
Nichols added that he is attempting to find a regular season game for the weekend of Nov. 13. The FHSAA playoffs are scheduled to begin that weekend, but the organization has already announced that Osceola would receive a first round bye.