TAMPA — The Gaither-Sickles kickoff classic was supposed to be the coming-out party for Gaither quarterback Alex McGough.
And though McGough had his moments, it was Sickles quarterback Nate Mills who made more plays. Mills, filling in for injured starter Lee Myers, scored on a 2-yard run in the second quarter and threw a touchdown in the game's closing moments to lift Sickles to a 17-2 win.
The Gryphons and Cowboys combined for almost 300 yards worth of penalties. Still, the game remained close throughout.
McGough, a sophomore transfer from Wesley Chapel, passed for more than 100 yards and twice led Gaither on drives deep into Sickles territory. But both of those drives ended with the Cowboys turning the ball over on downs.
Sickles, meanwhile, got an early 41-yard field goal from Andres Vasquez. Gaither's only points came when the Cowboys backed the Gryphons up on the 1-yard line and the Sickles punter stepped out of the end zone for a safety.
The Gryphons' last score came with 17 seconds left when Mills completed a 19-yard pass to Deandre McClain.
Rod Gipson, Times correspondent