CITRUS PARK — The results may be a little tough to complain about, but it's the process that concerns Sickles' coach Brian Turner.
His Gryphons team is on a two-game win streak and has done so comfortably, winning the games by a combined 53 points. Still, Turner knows what lies ahead — district play.
"We have to get a lot better," Turner said after a recent game. "We have to get a lot more physical and we have to do a better job of coaching."
Tonight, Sickles faces a district clash with state-ranked Armwood. But that is just the start of a brutal stretch of Class 6A, District 8 games for the Gryphons. After Armwood, Sickles faces Hillsborough at home, Jefferson on the road and an improved Strawberry Crest at home.
Turner had plenty of praise for some of the players he'll guide into those games.
Senior quarterback Nate Mills, who tossed two touchdowns in Sickles' 37-14 win at Brandon last week, has been outstanding. And in sophomores Ray Ray McCloud (177 yards rushing last week) and Isaac Holder, Sickles already has its future at running back and quarterback.
"When Nate is on, we're at our best on the field. He has a calming factor on us," Turner said. "Isaac is going to be good for us for a while, and Ray Ray McCloud is a good football player. He is going to be one of the best by the time he leaves Hillsborough County."
Meanwhile, league play takes over the schedule as all of the other North of Tampa-area squads are playing district games tonight.
Among the bigger games, Wharton tries to rebound at home against Plant, Gaither travels to Steinbrenner, undefeated Berkeley Prep opens district play in Pinellas County and Carrollwood Day School tries to bounce back from a tough loss.
All kickoffs are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. unless noted.
Canterbury School (1-4, 1-3) at Carrollwood Day School (4-1, 2-1) 4 p.m.
Last week: Canterbury lost to Bradenton Christian 28-14; CDS lost to Admiral Farragut 36-29.
Why you should go: To see how Carrollwood bounces back from its tough seven-point loss to Admiral Farragut. The loss hurts the Patriots' league title hopes, but CDS remains right in the middle of the wild card chase in Class 2A-5. Also, CDS standout RB Robert Davis is nursing a knee sprain and may not see extensive action, which means more opportunities for wideout Andy Embody.
Berkeley Prep (5-0) at St. Petersburg Catholic (2-2, 0-1) 7 p.m.
Last week: Berkeley Prep defeated Lennard 31-19; SPC lost to Lemon Bay (Englewood) 50-49.
Why you should go: To see Berkeley RB Chris Williams, a dazzling 5-foot-7, 165-pound runner. Williams torched Lennard last week for 221 yards and three touchdowns. As the unbeaten Bucs start 3A-5 play, Dominick Ciao's program owns a county-best 18 straight regular season wins and has won 26 of 30 games since the start of the 2010 season.
Alonso (2-2) at Bloomingdale (3-2)
Last week: Alonso defeated Freedom 35-6; Bloomingdale defeated Riverview 23-7.
Why you should go: In a tight, four-team district (especially with Plant and Wharton), getting off to a 1-0 league start is huge. Bloomingdale is a much-improved team and Alonso QB Brandon Hawkins is clicking after two straight wins.
Sickles (3-1, 1-0) at Armwood (4-1, 2-0)
Last week: Sickles defeated Brandon 37-14; Armwood defeated Jefferson 35-21.
Why you should go: If Sickles wants to move to the next level, this is the game to do it. Armwood, already 2-0 in 6A-8, is a perennial state championship contender. Sickles has some weapons in QB Nate Mills, RB Ray Ray McCloud and WR Bilal Silat, and this could be the Gryphons' best chance to upset the Hawks and make a district statement.
Freedom (2-3, 1-0) at Chamberlain (1-3, 0-1)
Last week: Freedom lost to Alonso 35-6; Chamberlain lost to Newsome 31-28.
Why you should go: This likely will turn out to be a scrappy Class 7A, District 7 game. Freedom is coming off a blowout loss, but the Patriots actually are 1-0 in the district. Chamberlain, meanwhile, is looking to break out of its "play-well-but-still-lose" recent history.
Gaither (3-1, 1-0) at Steinbrenner (1-3, 0-1)
Last week: Gaither was off; Steinbrenner was off.
Why you should go: To see a neighborhood rivalry that has big ramifications in the Class 7A, District 7 race. Gaither needs a win to maintain first place in the district while the Warriors need a win to get in the race. Also, Gaither junior QB Alex McGough is off to a hot start — 62 percent passing with 470 yards, six TDs and no interceptions so far this season.
Calvary Christian (2-2, 2-1) at Cambridge Christian (3-2, 2-2)
Last week: Calvary defeated Northside Christian 41-13; Cambridge lost to Indian Rocks Christian 53-14.
Why you should go: This is a matchup of two 2A-5 teams fighting not to fall out of the district race, which a loss likely will accomplish.
Leto (0-5, 0-2) at King (1-4, 1-1)
Last week: Leto lost to Hillsborough 65-0; King defeated Strawberry Crest 28-16.
Why you should go: It has been another tough road this season for Leto, but is this the week the Falcons break through?
Plant (3-1) at Wharton (3-1)
Last week: Plant defeated Tampa Bay Tech 21-14; Wharton lost to Durant 13-12.
Why you should go: Because this likely is the Class 8A, District 6 championship game and Wharton could actually win. Injuries have led to a somewhat sluggish start for state power Plant and Wharton has one of its best teams in recent seasons.