LITHIA — Around 3 p.m. Thursday afternoon, just as Sickles running back Ray Ray McCloud III was getting out of school, he received a phone call from his dad. He had good news.
Moments later, the senior had his 13th college football offer, this one from Ole Miss. Though McCloud needed no extra motivation to tear up opponents' defenses in Sickles' first two wins, the grinning Gryphon had to admit it gave him a bit of an extra spark in Sickles' 27-7 win against Newsome
"I'm always in a good mood, just smiling," McCloud said after his 207-yard game. "But it was a little extra (tonight)."
In his first two games, wins against Robinson and Durant, McCloud amassed 170 and 229 rushing yards, respectively.
Thursday, he wasted no time picking up where he left off. On the first play from scrimmage, McCloud ran for 15 yards. On the following play, quarterback Issac Holder connected with Jaaron Barrett for a 65-yard touchdown.
In the first half, McCloud ran right over the Newsome defense — which saved the turnover-plagued Wolves in Week 1 and shut down Gaither last Friday. He recorded 127 of the Gryphons' 138 first-half rushing yards, even while playing quarterback in place of the injured Holder for one drive.
Still, McCloud saw room for improvement.
"First half, I felt like I was moving too fast through the holes," he said. "I came out in the second half. …I just had to slow my game down."
On his second carry of the second half, first and 10 from the 33-yard line, McCloud saw Justin Harris and Deandre Mclean create a big hole for him. McCloud, focused on going slow, made a well-thought out, clean break that culminated in a 67-yard touchdown.
The Newsome offense, under the direction of third-time starter Spencer Preston, struggled to get anything going all game. Preston completed just five of 22 passes, and Travis Hempstead, who ran for more than 200 yards in Newsome's win against Gaither last week, couldn't muster more than 30. The Wolves' only touchdown came after a Gryphon reserve threw an interception.
In addition to McCloud and Barrett's scores, the Gryphons scored on a short pass to Brandon Washington, and Daniel Lezotte hit 37- and 30-yard field goals.
As Newsome fans streamed out of the stadium after the game, the name on everyone's lips was Ray Ray McCloud. Coach Brian Turner was sure to commend his star after the game, but he felt it was another Gryphon — a group of them — that actually sealed the deal.
"Our defense really won the game for us tonight," Turner said. "When you can shut down Newsome and Durant in back-to-back weeks, that's pretty impressive."
Kelly Parsons can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @_kellyparsons