KISSIMMEE — Sickles quarterback Isaac Holder was nearly unstoppable in the first half of the Class 7A region final against Kissimmee Osceola on Friday night.
Holder threw for two touchdowns on 8-of-11 passing and staked the Gryphons to a 14-7 lead. But with an ineffective Ray Ray McCloud III at running back, Osceola’s defense concentrated on shutting down Sickles’ passing attack.
Holder threw for only 8 yards in the second half and Osceola (11-2) rallied with two fourth-quarter touchdowns to the state semifinals.
“We had our chances,” Sickles coach Brian Turner said. “The kids played hard, but they just made more plays than we did. This team was the most successful in the history of the school”
Sickles (11-2), ranked No. 5 in the 7A Associated Press state poll, won its first playoff games this season .
McCloud came into the game with 2,262 yards rushing and an injured ankle. Osceola’s defense did something no opposing team has done this year to McCloud — held him to under 100 yards rushing. McCloud had just 38 yards on 13 carries, but he also had a 65-yard touchdown on a post pattern.
“I don’t know how much his ankle bothered him,” Osceola coach Doug Nichols said, “I know I saw a lot of gold helmets around him every time he got the ball in the backfield and it sure didn’t seem to bother him on that pass.”
The scoring pass to McCloud was followed by a 31-yard touchdown pass to Jaaron Barrett on a play that illustrated Holder’s athletic ability.
Osceola put pressure on Holder, forcing him to roll to his right. Just as it seemed Barrett was about to go out of bounds, he stopped, took two steps back and heaved the ball into the corner of the end zone, where Barrett made an acrobatic reception.
That play put the Gryphons up 14-7 with 6:57 left in the first half.
The score stayed that way until Osceola assembled a 99-yard drive that started in the third quarter and ended in the fourth. Osceola quarterback Daequan Harrison and fullback Laderrien Wilson did most of the damage on that drive. They had three runs of 10-plus yards on that drive, including a 15-yard run by Harrison on a third and 13.
The Kowboys scored on the first play of the fourth quarter on a 5-yard run by Dwight Fagan.
Osceola scored the winning touchdown on its next possession — and also had a little luck on the drive.
Harrison hit Akiel Hamilton for 8 yards on a fourth and 4 to keep the drive alive. Then Wilson, on a 12-yard run, was hit at the 5 and fumbled the ball out of bounds at the Sickles 3.
Two plays later, Nazayah Brown scored the winning touchdown on a 1-yard run with 5:23 left to play.