TAMPA — Assorted injuries and suspensions have left Sickles — a bona fide Class 6A playoff contender this fall — far from 100 percent for Thursday’s jamboree at Alonso.
But behind center, the Gryphons are a picture of health — and healthy competition.
Rising senior Nate Mills, an 1,100-yard passer who threw only four picks in 133 attempts last year, is the starter for now. But coach Brian Turner clearly believes Jesuit transfer Isaac Holder, a rising sophomore, is his quarterback of the long-term future.
“I think that’s one of the big reasons Nate has become what he has, because Isaac has come in here and pushed him,” said Turner, who will employ a pro-style, play-action offense to maximize his passers and rangy receivers.
“(Mills) has become a lot better player than what we thought he was.”
Sharks’ options aplenty
Proving he clearly is his father’s son, new Riverview coach Mike Thornton said Monday the Sharks, winners of one game on the field the past two seasons, will try to resurrect themselves via the run.
“It’s going to be a multiple-formation, triple-option team,” said Thornton, whose dad, Brian, employed the wishbone throughout his 17-year stint as East Bay coach. “We’re a three-back offense, so there’s always going to be three backs back there.”
The triumvirate, for now, appears to be rising junior FB Kimo Vereen, rising senior HB Greg Williams and rising senior HB Lasander Washington, a Class 4A state qualifier in the 200 meters.
Look for them to operate out of a wishbone at times and a Georgia Tech-style triple-option at others, with some other option variations tossed in.
“We’d like to be competitive throwing and exploit the defenses trying to stop our run game,” Thornton said. “But at the end of the day we are very much committed to running the football and time of possession and playing good defense.”
Sickles by the numbers
3 Gryphons receivers who stand at least 6-foot-3. Turner is high on the rangy triumvirate of rising seniors Bilal Salat and De’Andre Mathis, and rising junior Chett Levay
4 TD passes Salat dropped in last year’s Green and White game. Now, Turner wouldn’t trade him for any receiver in the county
43 Catches Salat and Mathis combined for in 2011. Levay surely would’ve increased that total, but was injured nearly all of last season
188 Combined tackles made by linebackers Adekunle Olusanya and Haiden Nagel in 2011. Turner considers his defensive front seven, anchored by this pair, as the Gryphons’ strength
250 Approximate weight of 6-foot-5 Gryphons TE Zach Hudson, sliding from tight end to tackle this year
Photo: Sickles QBs Nate Mills, foreground, and Isaac Holder