Here’s a look at high school sports around the county.
After Osceola lineman Xavier Castillo (Vanderbilt) and Gateway’s Jacobi Bryant (FIU) inked scholarship offers in the early signing period, nine other players selected their colleges last week.
Osceola kicker Spencer Richards will play college football at New Mexico Highlands. St. Cloud had three signees in Trace Clark (St. Olaf-Minn.), Azariah Williams (St. Olaf), and Kristian Zommer (Gannon-Pa.); while Tohopekaliga had five in Julio Del Jesus (Wofford-S.C.), Sir Giles (Gannon), Tresean Hill (William Penn- Iowa), Edmundo Maldonaldo (Graceland-Iowa) and Myles Winslow (Georgia Southern).
District playoff action began this week for all Osceola teams. City of Life (20-2) had a great season but finds itself in the same district as defending 2A state champion Orlando Christian (20-0), a team that would present a major road block in both district and regional play. Osceola (12-7), which has routinely reached the regional round and won two state championships under former coach Nate Alexander, is seeded second in the 7A, District 6 tournament. The Kowboys, who received a first round bye, would have to beat the winner of Celebration/Davenport Ridge in Wednesday’s semifinal to advance to the regional stage. Poinciana and Liberty are playing in the Class 6A, District 6 tournament and are seeded eighth and sixth respectively; Tohopekaliga is the six seed in 7A, District 5; while Harmony is the five seed in 6A, District 5. St. Cloud was the third seed in Class 6A, District 5 and played Sebastain River in a Tuesday quarterfinal. Gateway (8-2), who was limited to just 10 games this season because of COVID-19 issues, is the number two seed in Class 5A District 8. Both Osceola (No. 15) and Gateway (No. 16) were ranked this past week in the Orlando Sentinel’s list of the Top 16 Teams in Central Florida.
St. Cloud claimed a championship last week as Eno Inyang scored 28 points and added 14 rebounds as the Lady Bulldogs took a convincing 51-33 win over East River in the Class 6A, District 5 title game. St. Cloud moved on to play 6A, District 6 runner-up Lake Howell in a regional quarterfinal on Thursday night. City of Life (11-2) lost to Victory Christian, 50-42, in the Class 2A, District 11 Championship Game last week but moved on as runner-up where they will play District 12 champion Covenant Christian (Palm Bay) in a regional quarterfinal. Gateway (18-6) lost to Palm Bay (19-3), 69-27, in the 5A, District 8 title game but move on to regional play today, where they will face District 7 champion Lake Wales (12-5) in a quarterfinal game.
For the first time in a number of years, Osceola County failed to advance a team to regional play in boys’ soccer. Celebration (10-3-5) and Poinciana (11-8-1) made it to the district semifinals. Celebration lost to topseeded Davenport Ridge (12-0) by a 3-1 count in the semifinals; while Poinciana (12-5-1) dropped a 5-2 decision to New Smyrna Beach (12-4-4). Osceola (8-4-3) and Harmony (8-4-5) also posted winning seasons in 2020-21.
After district play, Osceola County only had one team left in the state tournament. The St. Cloud Lady Bulldogs (7-6-4) received a first round bye in the 6A, District 9 tournament, advanced to the district finals with a 1-1 draw (advancing on penalty kicks) with Tohopekaliga, before losing on penalty kicks to New Smyrna Beach in the finals. That runnerup district finish will pit the Lady Bulldogs against the winner of Tuesday’s George Jenkins-Lakeland District 10 championship game. Harmony (9-6-1) came up one game short of advancing to regionals, beating South Fork in the district quarterfinals but losing to Martin County, 4-2, in the semifinals. Gateway (8-4-3) and Toho (9-6-3) also finished their seasons with winning records.
The FHSAA State Championships will be held starting Friday at two different sites. St. Cloud will host the Class 3A Championship; with Suwanee High School hosting the 1A and 2A Championships. Osceola County athletes will be well represented in the championships as St. Cloud has qualified 10 lifters for the state meet, Celebration has seven, and Tohopekaliga will have three qualifiers in the 3A meet; while Harmony will send one to the 2A Championship. Lady Bulldogs Head Coach Cory Aun said he believes his team has a chance to “put five lifters on the stand.” He added that a sixth athlete, sophomore Abby Davis, would have qualified at the 101-pound class, but had to withdraw from the district championships because of COVID-tracing concerns.