TAMPA — Chase Litton threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, and then Wharton held off a furious Sickles comeback attempt for a 29-27 victory Friday night.
Litton helped the Wildcats build a 21-6 lead early in the fourth quarter, and Deon Sampson ran for a 4-yard score for a 29-15 edge.
But Jared O'Donoghue's two scores, one rushing and one receiving, brought the Gryphons back within two.
The Gryphons were driving near the goal line with 16 seconds left when a bad handoff put the ball on the turf. Sophomore Ray Ray McCloud, who had already gone over 100 yards rushing in the game, scooped it up, but Wharton linebacker Jacob Meier dropped McCloud for a loss and time ran out.
It was a game full of sudden switches. The game itself switched venues just a day before. Wharton dominated the first half, while Sickles dominated the second. Sickles pulled senior quarterback Nate Mills in the first quarter and it failed, so Mills returned and nearly led the team back. Wharton subbed out Litton for senior Vernon Hargreaves in the fourth quarter and it nearly blew up in the Wildcats' faces.
The Wildcats got huge performances from their new skill players. Sampson had four catches for 86 yards and two touchdowns, while senior Keith Hopkins had five grabs for 77 yards. Litton was 13-for-18 for 229 yards and an interception.
Mills threw touchdowns to senior Bilal Salat and O'Donoghue, and a two-point conversion to Salat. Mills was 8-for-15 for 100 yards and two touchdowns.
"We'll take the win any way we can get it but what we need to work on is finishing," Wharton coach David Mitchell said.
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