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Osceola kicks in playoff door

Shhhhh. Can you hear that?

It's the postseason. It's crunch-time football. It's do-or-die drama.

And it's saying: Welcome back, Osceola.

For the first time since 1994, the Warriors are going to the playoffs, beating Bradenton Southeast 20-6 on Friday night to clinch the runner-up spot in Class 3A, District 11.

Beating a program like Southeast, a two-time state champion and six-time finalist, made the victory even "lovelier," to borrow running back Sergio Felton's word for it.

"It feels better than anything," he said, letting out a deep breath and pumping his fists.

Three running backs _ Felton, Tyler Gross and Ryan Thompson _ had more than 60 yards rushing and scored a touchdown.

The defense had guys knock down passes (Scott Beckwith, twice, and Chris Smith once), pick them off (Mike Butler) and sack the quarterback trying to throw them (Alex Cook and Josh Newsome).

Linebacker Gene Civello was a tackling machine, and the Osceola offensive line _ Rickey Jarrell, Dan Skinner, Wes Blyleven, Mike Shammos and Rickie Bose _ helped the Wing-T sing to the tune of 198 rushing yards, 168 in the first half.

Unlike many teams, if you look closely for the star of Osceola's playoff-clinching win, you'll find a constellation.

"That's the way its been with these kids all year," coach George Palmer said. "This year, I think it's the one thing that has made us a little more effective."

The Warriors (7-2) toughness shone through. For the first time this season, they did not score on their first drive, fumbling the ball inside the Southeast 30. And after their second and third drives ended without points, and Southeast scored first, Pinellas County's highest scoring team just dug in.

Felton turned the tide in the second quarter with a 49-yard scoring run thanks to a crunching block from Josh Koonce.

Their very next possession, the Warriors took a 14-6 halftime lead as Gross plowed in from 3 yards out.

Southeast managed just 94 yards in the second half.

Almost half those yards came on one drive that ended like four others did for the Seminoles in the second half _ on downs thanks to some crucial stops by the Osceola defense.

"We just came out ready and focused," said Smith, who knocked down a fourth-down pass on Southeast's final drive. "We weren't intimidated. It's been a while, man, but now, we got to go there. We got to go."