TAMPA — With Sickles efficiently driving into the red zone and threatening to turn Brandon’s 19-point halftime lead into a one-touchdown game late in the fourth quarter, Eagles coach John Lima knew his team was due for a big play on defense.
So, too, did Brandon defensive back D’Andre Franklin, who answered the call by picking up a fumble forced by Demetrius Payne and returning it 91 yards for a touchdown with 3:33 remaining.
The Gryphons (3-2) caught fire late behind new quarterback Lee Myers, but Franklin’s second scoop and score of the season secured the Eagles’ 29-9 victory on Friday night, moving them to 5-0 on the year.
“In practice, we worked on fumble recoveries. Coach said, ‘Scoop and score,’ and that’s all I did,” Franklin said. “It was real big. It helped us put them away.”
Sickles sped up and spread out its offense on the first drive of the game, moving the ball 69 yards down the field before the Brandon defense adjusted to the increased pace and forced a 32-yard field goal by Andres Vasquez. The Eagles went on to score 22 straight points before halftime on the strength of their devastating rushing attack, as they finished with 235 yards and three touchdowns on 30 carries.
“The running backs made some big plays. You get them out in the open field, and they’re pretty tough to bring down,” Lima said. “I give those guys a lot of credit.”
Senior Darius Lee made the biggest play, an 81-yard touchdown run with 1:59 left in the first. The 5-foot-8, 165-pound Lee cut through the defense and outran the opposition down the sideline, giving Brandon a lead it never relinquished.
Junior Tyrell Garner followed that up with a 30-yard score with 9:19 to go in the first half. Garner started to run off tackle then bounced out to the left, sprinting into the end zone for an easy touchdown.
Quarterback Josh Celerin took matters into his own hands later in the quarter, rolling out to his left and diving into the end zone for a 2-yard touchdown run. Senior fullback Shawn Council made it 22-3 by just crossing the plane to complete the two-point conversion.
“It’s a large group of seniors that went through two rough years and stuck with it, so they don’t want this ride to end,” Lima said. “I think we came out to practice pretty good this week, and I think they were fired up to play.”