By RODNEY PAGE
© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 3, 2001
SEMINOLE -- Before the season, Osceola coach George Palmer elected to become an independent rather than play in a district with teams from Bradenton, Sarasota and Tampa.
Palmer hasn't regretted the decision, but area coaches sure have.
Instead of playing seven district games, the Warriors filled their schedule with local schools and accumulated an 8-2 record. They defeated Class 4A, District 9 champion Largo 41-19 on Friday night.
There is one silver lining for teams having to play Osceola in the future: running back Jason Teague will have graduated.
Teague exploded for 247 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries against the Packers. He finished the regular season with 1,664 yards and 16 touchdowns -- tops in the county.
Osceola has one game left, a postseason meeting with host St. Petersburg Catholic on Thursday.
"(Teague's) the best back in the state," Largo coach Rick Rodriguez said. "No doubt. Our goal tonight was to hold him to 60 yards. Heck, we lost that on the first play."
Osceola's opening play was a pitch to Teague, who took it 61 yards to the Largo 19. Five plays later, he capped the drive when he ran 14 yards on a fake field goal to score the game's first touchdown.
Largo (8-2) took a 10-7 lead late in the opening quarter on a 36-yard pass from Marcus Paschal to Leonard Long and a 22-yard field goal by Brandon Mai.
But things fell apart for the Packers in the second quarter when Teague scored on a 33-yard run and Tondrid Brown intercepted a Fred Marshall pass and scored from 34 yards to make it 20-10 at halftime.
Largo fumbled on its first possession of the third quarter, and Osceola capitalized with a 1-yard touchdown run by Chris Gerber. The Packers appeared to have things turned around after a 14-play drive that ended with a 26-yard Mai field goal, but Osceola came right back.
Sophomore quarterback Kyle McDowell, playing for injured Leroy Hayes, connected on a 58-yard pass to Sergio Felton to give Osceola a 34-13 lead with nine seconds left in the third quarter. It was McDowell's second and final pass of the game.
"The interception by Tondrid and the fumble in the third quarter were huge," Palmer said. "It gave us momentum."
And it doesn't hurt to have Teague. He scored the Warriors' final touchdown on a 20-yard run up the middle.
"I knew this was going to be my last game ever on this field, and I wanted to make it special," Teague said. "My offensive line was blocking well. The holes were there all night."