TAMPA — Sickles was still basking in Friday’s 35-8 victory over Tampa Bay Tech when someone ran over to coach Brian Turner with bad news.
The team’s district championship T-shirts didn’t get in on time. The coaches could only hand their players neon green Frisbees to celebrate their Class 7A, District 7 title.
That was about the only thing that went wrong for Sickles, which used a dominant effort from the start to clinch the first district championship in school history and end Tampa Bay Tech’s hopes of a sixth consecutive playoff appearance.
“It’s a great victory for those guys,” Turner said, “but we have bigger goals; not just a district title.”
Accomplishing that first goal was never in question Friday night.
Sickles (8-1, 5-0) forced a three-and-out on the first possession. Two plays later, Issac Holder hit senior Jaaron Barrett for a 45-yard touchdown pass.
Tampa Bay Tech (6-3, 3-2) never got any closer. Sickles linebacker Jake Hampton intercepted a pass two plays later and returned it inside the 1 to set up the first of Ray Ray McCloud’s four rushing touchdowns.
“They’ve been getting ready all summer for it,” Turner said of his coaching staff. “And our kids executed the game plan.”
Especially on defense. The Gryphons held Tampa Bay Tech’s loaded offense to a season-low 153 yards. Sickles racked up three sacks and allowed the Titans inside its red zone only once.
A TBT aerial attack that had been averaging almost 220 yards per game finished 8-of-26 passing for 43 yards.
“The defense balled tonight,” McCloud said.
So, for that matter, did McCloud. He finished with 219 yards and took advantage of the good field position his defense provided. His first three touchdowns covered 4 total yards and gave his team a 28-0 lead less than 14 minutes into the game.
The junior star finally broke a long run in the second half, bursting 52 yards for his 19th rushing touchdown of the season.
“That’s Ray Ray,” said Sickles linebacker Josh Black, who recorded his 16th sack of the season. “I expect that of him.”
The Titans’ only score came four minutes into the second quarter, after USF oral commitment Tajee Fullwood returned a kickoff into Sickles territory. That set up a 5-yard touchdown rush by Deon Thompson, and quarterback Deon Cain added the two-point conversion.
Cain, one of the country’s top prospects for the Class of 2015, left the game in the second half with an apparent left leg injury.
By then, the game was already decided.
All that remained was a Gatorade bath for Turner and neon Frisbees to toss in the parking lot to celebrate one of the biggest wins in program history.
Times staff writer Matt Baker can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter at @MattHomeTeam.