TAMPA — Last season was the most successful in Sickles history, the Gryphons winning a district title and their first-ever playoff games en route to the region finals.
The 2014 Gryphons, ranked No. 3 in the preseason HomeTeam 25, enter the year eyeing even greater achievements.
Sickles’ quest for a possible state title run began nearly flawlessly in a 33-7 rout of Robinson on Friday in the season opener.
“It feels a lot better” than last year, senior Ray Ray McCloud III said. “A lot more energy, intensity from the defense like they want it. The seniors … after the loss to Osceola (in the playoffs) we’ve got a lot of fire under us.”
Sickles scored on its opening three possessions and four of its first five to erase any Robinson upset hopes. On the sixth play of the game, Gryphons quarterback Isaac Holder looked to be bottled up on a third down option play but eluded a gang of would-be tacklers to rush for a 47-yard score.
Facing third and 1 on the next drive, McCloud, a Clemson commit, broke a pair of arm tackles at the line of scrimmage and outraced the defense for a 64-yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead.
“We pitched the ball to Ray, and he made five people miss,” Sickles head coach Brian Turner said. “We have good football players, and they made good football plays” Friday night.
The next time McCloud touched the ball, he scampered 51 yards for a score, cutting back at the 20 to juke a defender. He finished with 174 yards on 20 rushes, an 8.7-yard average.
“Ray Ray McCloud doesn’t need blocking,” Turner said. “We had plays where (no offensive lineman) touches anybody, and he makes yards. He usually makes the rest of the team look good, but our line works really hard and they love blocking for Ray Ray.”
Holder (13 carries, 127 yards) had a 2-yard rush into the end zone and a 31-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Quintana in the second quarter for a 33-0 Sickles advantage.
Robinson scored right before the half, quarterback Malik Tyson finding Jahrvis Davenport (four catches, 75 yards) for a 9-yard touchdown on fourth and 4.
Stars of the game
RB Ray Ray McCloud III, Sickles: 174 yards on 20 carries, including a pair of long touchdown runs from 64 and 51 yards out.
QB Isaac Holder, Sickles: Only threw 11 passes but was 6-for-11 for 73 yards and a touchdown through the air. Carried the ball 13 times for 127 yards and two touchdowns.
WR Iylan Mitchell, Robinson: Was the favorite target of QB Malik Tyson, catching eight passes for 84 yards.