SEMINOLE — Osceola's schedule was not exactly the blueprint for getting off to a fast start. There were games against 2011 playoff teams Pinellas Park and Largo, and others against resurgent Northeast and always-tough St. Petersburg.
The result? A 1-3 start.
Then came the more manageable part of the schedule with matchups against Seminole, Boca Ciega and Clearwater. More than just feasting on struggling programs, the Warriors have gained a handle on coach George Palmer's schemes and his idea for the way football should be played.
The result? Three straight victories.
This is more than a turnabout, a reversal of fortune, a shedding of old skin. The offense runs the ball. The defense not only shuts down teams, but makes game-swinging plays. The special teams make an impact. And the interlocking play among those three phases has helped make this team whole.
Tonight, Osceola (4-3, 1-1) hosts Tarpon Springs (3-4, 1-1) in a Class 6A, District 7 game that has serious postseason implications. If the Warriors win, they will have gone from 1-3 to playoff contender.
"We're shortening the field, eliminating the turnovers and playing well defensively," Palmer said. "All of those things have helped give us a chance to win, and we've been able to put a few victories together."
This kind of turnaround is not unprecedented. Last year, Osceola started 1-5 before winning three of its last four, including an upset of the Spongers that kept the Warriors in the playoff picture until their final district game.
Another run didn't seem possible at the beginning of the season, especially after Osceola lost receiver/linebacker Kyle Brittain, who transferred to Clearwater Central Catholic.
"A lot of people on the outside probably didn't think we could do much," defensive back Austin Lawrence said. "But I always thought the playoffs were a possibility. We came on at the end of last season, and I think that helped us know we can compete."
Lawrence has contributed by creating timely turnovers. He has five interceptions, including four in last week's win over Clearwater.
On offense, the Warriors churn up the clock with backs such as Jamil Morris, who scored twice against the Tornadoes. They also filter in a few big-play passes from quarterback Andrew Matyk.
"We feel like we're doing what we need to do to keep this going," Lawrence said. "If we keep playing as a team, we can win the rest of our games and make the playoffs."