It’s never easy to see your season come to an end, especially when it’s partly due to self-inflicted errors.
That was the case during Dr. Phillips’ 20-7 loss to Osceola (Kissimmee) in the 8A regional semifinal Friday, Nov. 15.
Throughout the night’s game the Panthers struggled with penalties, while turning the ball over on multiple occasions — including a pick-six by Osceola’s Jerry Wilson that went for 95 yards.
“It was just self-inflected wounds,” said Panthers head coach Rodney Wells. “It’s the playoffs — we had way too many mistakes to beat a really-good team in Osceola. We turned the ball over, had too many penalties and we hurt ourselves.”
Out of the gate the Panthers (9-3) seemed to be in good shape, as seven minutes into the game running back Brandon Fields capped off a strong drive — helped by three Osceola (10-1) penalties — with a 10-yard touchdown run at the five minute mark in the first quarter. Riley Stephens’ extra point would split the uprights, and the Panthers would take the early lead.
On their next drive, the Panthers turned the ball over on a bad handoff between quarterback Isaiah Givens and Fields. From there things seemed to quickly go downhill fast.
After driving downfield and converting on 4th-and-1 at the 3-yard line, Kowboys running back Dwayne McGee broke through the line for Osceola’s opening score with 9:05 left in the first half. The extra point tied the game at 7-7.
The Kowboys would strike again with 1:32 left in the half when Spencer Richards kicked the easy field goal to give the Kowboys the 10-7 lead. From there, the Kowboys never gave up their lead.
To start off the second half the Panthers drove down the field with relative ease, before Givens tossed a ball that ended up in the hands of Osceola’s Jerry Wilson, who then proceeded to spring past the entire Dr. Phillips defense for an emphatic 95 yard pick-six. The extra point made it 17-7 with 8:45 left in the third.
The most frustrating part of the Panthers’ offensive struggles on Friday was that they were completely uncharacteristic for Wells’ team. Things that had usually worked during the season just seemed to fall flat.
“We had the pick-six, and then we had two times where we missed a guy wide open in the end zone… we have been hitting that all year,” Wells said. “It’s just that type of night.”
The Panthers would get their last real shot for points about three-and-a-half minutes later, but Stephen’s 35 yard field goal flew wide right of the uprights.
The last score of the night would come on a 27 yard field goal by Richards to push the Kowboys’ lead to 20-7 with 8:33 left in the game — sealing up the victory for Osceola.
Despite the loss, and the disappointment that comes with the manner in which they lost, the Panthers still have a lot to be proud of, Wells said.
“We had some great times,” Wells said. “These guys matured. Coming out the first few weeks we weren’t very good — we were not a good football team — and these guys did everything that we asked them to do to mature and get better and they did something that nobody thought they would do.”