SEMINOLE — Think of Osceola’s season as one long U-turn. After starting 1-3, the Warriors had won three straight heading into Friday night’s Class 6A, District 7 showdown with Tarpon Springs.
Think of Osceola’s surplus of running backs as the guys who gave the steering wheel a jerk.
Using a backfield by committee approach, the Warriors pounded out 312 yards on the ground in a 35-25 victory over the Spongers. The win puts Osceola (5-3, 2-1) in contention for at least the runnerup spot in the district with victories over Dixie Hollins and Bradenton Lakewood Ranch over the next two weeks.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that we can hand the ball off to,” Warriors coach George Palmer said. “We were staying between the tackles and breaking some big ones every now and then.”
The other key to Osceola’s turnaround has been turnovers. The Warriors rarely commit them and have done a good job of creating them.
It happened again Friday.
Osceola recovered a fumble and intercepted a pass during the first half, and both led to scores.
Tarpon Springs (3-5, 1-2) scored first on a 15-yard pass from Dalton Collins to Allen Wilson to go ahead 7-0. The Warriors then ripped off three straight scores, two off those turnovers.
There were short runs by Courtney Burge and Daviel Clarke and a 13-yard pass from Andrew Matayk to Zach Hehn to give Osceola a 21-7 lead.
The teams traded scores for the rest of the first half. The Spongers’ Michael Ford ran 4 yards for a touchdown. Clarke scored his second touchdown on a short run. And Tarpon Springs’ Louis Zervos hit a 34-yard field goal in the final seconds to make it 28-17.
The Spongers caught the biggest break of the game early in the fourth quarter when they recovered a fumble inside their 5. They then went 95 yards on a drive capped by Montel Johnson’s 9-yard touchdown run. Collins hit Wilson on a pass for a two-point conversion to cut the deficit to 28-25.
On the next possession, the Spongers forced a punt. But Collins had to leave the game with a knee injury. (His status is unknown.)
Kenyatta Merriex took over at quarterback, and the drive was stopped on downs.
Clarke sealed the game with a 31-yard run for a score. In all, Osceola had nine running backs who had at least one carry. Clarke led all rushers with 146 yards.
The loss was Tarpon Springs’ fourth straight.
“We have defenders in the right spots,” Spongers coach Ron Hawn said. “We have just got to find a way to make the tackle.”