In the end, it was too many mistakes and too many big plays by a talented opponent.
Osceola turned the ball over five times as the Kowboys lost a 38-10 decision to Sanford Seminole High School in the Class 8A State Championship Football Game on Saturday at Doak Campbell Stadium in Tallahassee.
It was third time under head coach Doug Nichols that the Kowboys came up one game short of that elusive state championship, having lost in the consecutive finals in 2014-15. The Kowboys finish their 2020 season with a 9-3 record; Sanford – who a state title for a second time – concluded its season with a perfect 12-0 mark.
“Without question, the turnovers killed us,” Nichols said. “We went into the game with only two interceptions and four lost fumbles in the entire season and turn it over five times in the championship game. Don’t care whether you are playing the best team in the state or an elementary school. It’s hard to win when you can’t hang on to the ball.”
The Seminoles jumped on top early as Keon Holloway returned the opening kickoff 51 yards to the Osceola 40. Six plays later, Sergio Diaz booted a 26-yard field goal and Seminole led 3-0. After trading fumbles, the Kowboys drove deep inside Sanford territory, only to see Johnny Harris step in from of a Chad Mascoe pass and return it 87 yards for a touchdown and a 9-0 lead.
Osceola threatened on its next possession, driving down inside the Sanford 10, but would have to settle for a Spencer Richards’ 28-yard field goal after Mascoe was sacked on a third and five play. A Timmy McClain 16-yard touchdown run would then make it 17-3 Sanford. The score was set up by a 72-yard pass play from McClain to Javari Frederick.
The Kowboys would try to claw back on their next possession. A 35-yard run by Ja’Randy Swint helped set up Mascoe’s 29-yard touchdown pass to Isaiah Jean Baptiste, as Osceola cut the gap to 17-10 with four minutes remaining in the second quarter.
It would as close as the Kowboys would get the rest of the game.
McClain would lead Seminole on a nine-play, 61-yard drive – capped off by a 29-yard touchdown pass to Jimmy Horn with just 15-seconds left in the half, as Sanford would take a 24-7 lead into the locker room at the half.
“We had our opportunities,” Nichols said. “Our defense forced three turnovers of their own; we simply didn’t capitalize on them.”
While the Osceola offense struggled in the second half, Seminole would continue to get some big plays. Midway through the third quarter, Davonta Whack broke loose on a 64-yard touchdown run to make it a 31-7 game.
Seminole would cap the scoring early in the fourth quarter, again taking advantage of a big play. Running back Rob Thomas would break loose on a 69-yard run. Three plays later, Andy McClain would score from four yards out for the 38-7 final.
In the end, it was the turnovers and big plays that cost the Kowboys a chance to win the game. Osceola lost three fumbles and threw two interceptions. In addition to the long kickoff and interception return, the Kowboys also allowed five plays from scrimmage of 25 yards or longer.
Still there were some bright sides to the Osceola performance. Jean-Baptiste caught five passes for 57 yards and a score, Swint rushed for 62 yards on 14 carries and Mascoe was 16 for 22 for 214 yards. Defensively, the Kowboys forced three turnovers. LB Alvin Lee had a huge game with seven tackles, two quarterback sacks, two tackles for loss and a fumble recovery.
Although Osceola returns the majority of its starters on both sides of the ball, including all skill positions, Nichols said the team would need to guard against complacency.
“Already heard the noise about how we have almost everyone back and how we will be back next year,” Nichols said. “But unless you played the game, you don’t understand how hard it is to get to a championship game. You can have a great team but if one or two breaks go against you in the playoffs, you can be sent home in a hurry. This was a great season. I told our kids to appreciate how hard it is to get to a championship game and I’m glad they got to experience it. But we’ll enjoy it for a while, forget about it and get back to work in January.”