Coach: Brian Turner (fifth season, 33-11)
Last season: 11-2
Colors: Green and white
Stadium: Gryphons’ Lair, 7950 Gunn Hwy., Tampa
Playoff history: 2007, 2009, 2010, 2013
Last appearance: Beat Plant City 17-10; beat East Bay 27-0; lost 19-14 to Kissimmee Osceola.
Aug. 29 vs. Robinson, 7:30
Sept. 5 at Durant, 7:30
Sept. 12 vs. Newsome, 7:30
Sept. 19 at Steinbrenner, 7:30
Oct. 2 vs. Freedom, 7
Oct. 10 vs. Plant, 7:30
Oct. 17 at Gaither, 7:30
Oct. 24 vs. Wiregrass Ranch, 7:30
Oct. 31 at Tampa Bay Tech, 7:30
Nov. 7 at Alonso, 7:30
Mark your calendar
Plant at Sickles, Oct. 10: The Gryphons will play more meaningful district games that determine whether they make the postseason, but Sickles is on the cusp of joining the upper crust of Hillsborough County’s football hierarchy. Wins over teams like Plant can get them there. It’s a rare statement game that reverberates statewide and could also put a stamp on Ray Ray McCloud III’s legacy. Last year, McCloud III had 27 carries for 159 yards in a 24-20 loss.
Record chase? Coach Brian Turner says McCloud hasn’t talked about the county rushing record, but Turner has mentioned it to him. The Clemson commitment begins the season with 3,832 career yards, and needs 1,745 yards to break Robert Davis’ mark. McCloud averaged 178 yards a game last season, so it’s easily within reach. Even though McCloud will see more time at wide receiver, Turner is hoping to lessen his load. If Sickles plays 13 games again, McCloud only needs to average 134 yards a contest.
Hold on: Sickles’ best offensive player so far this fall? Quarterback Isaac Holder, who is gunning for a 2,000/1,000 pass-rush season. “He has more of a grasp on the offense this year,’’ Turner said of his 5-foot-11, 175-pound signal caller. “The game has slowed down for him.”
Fingers crossed: Former Gaither all-county cornerback Nate Ferguson is waiting to see if he’ll be approved to play at Sickles, and talented athlete Trey Fullwood, who would excel in the Gryphons’ depleted wide receiver corps, is waiting to see if he’s eligible. If they can play, it’s a huge boon to Sickles’ playoff hopes. And if last year’s starting cornerback Issac LeVay decides to return to football, that will just be gravy.
Line them up: Last year’s injury to offensive tackle Zach Hudson might pay dividends this year. Because of it, Turner has to shuffle linemen around and some non-starters got more experience. This year, three full-time or part-time starters — Justin Gibbons, Josh Kaspari and Jack Westen — are back. Kaspari and Westen started every game.
There is no new Black: Sickles loses three defensive players, including Tampa Bay Times’ Defensive Player of the Year Josh Black, who had more than 100 tackles. Another linebacker, Jake Hampton, led the team with 120 and returns.
RB Ray Ray McCloud III, Sr.: The HomeTeam 100 No. 1 player. ’Nuff said.
LB Jake Hampton, Jr.: Hampton had a team-high 120 tackles last year, with 14 of those for losses to go with six sacks. He’ll head up another solid defensive unit.
DL Logan Braswell, Sr.: If you’re looking for someone to replace Black’s production, Braswell might be your guy. Last year at linebacker he had 82 tackles and 9.5 sacks.
DB Carter Mulroe, Jr.: Now a three-year starter, Mulroe is the top returning pass defender, with seven deflections and two interceptions, which tied for the team lead.
LB Cameron Miller, Jr.: Miller had 79 tackles and five sacks last year as a lineman, but will take his 6-2, 210-pound frame to linebacker this season.
QB Isaac Holder, Sr.: With Sickles running more option this year, the sky is the limit for Holder.
RT Adrian Morris, Jr.: Morris will transition from defensive end to right tackle this season.
ATH Anthony Quintana, So.: Played a lot as a freshman and provides some versatility with his ability to play running back and the slot.
DB Corey Woodard, Jr.: He would have started last season as a sophomore if not for an injury.
DT Chris Griffith, Sr.: He missed last season with an injury, but benches 475 pounds and squats 600. “He’s the strongest high school kid I’ve ever seen,’’ Turner says.
TE/DL Dante Tedesco, Jr.: A big kid at 6-4, 215, the Steinbrenner transfer can provide help on both sides of the ball but will start on defense.
“We can compete for the district title. We just have to make the playoffs, and then see what happens. I think we have a good chance to do something if we can.” — Turner