TAMPA — Even Sickles defensive end Tyler Gimbert, the most confident of Gryphons, went into the locker room worried.
Playoffs came four weeks early for Sickles, which needed a win over district foe Boca Ciega on Friday night to preserve its postseason dreams, and the Gryphons headed into the locker room at halftime down by 15.
"We told them at halftime that it was a pride thing," Gryphons coach Pat O'Brien said. "They had to take a little bit of individual pride."
The Gryphons dominated the second half — the defense holding Boca Ciega to 23 yards after the half — and sophomore kicker Andres Vasquez's 37-yard field goal in overtime gave Sickles a 31-28 overtime win.
With the victory, Sickles (5-1, 1-1) controls its playoff fate.
While running back Cary White carried the load in the first half, rushing for 108 of his game-high 132 yards, quarterback John Melvin Hendrick took the reins in the second half, running Sickles' option offense to perfection. His 69-yard option keeper for a touchdown made the game 22-20 and then after a Bogie score he had two big double-digit runs the Gryphons' winning drive.
"They outplayed us in the second half," Pirates coach Stevie Thomas said. "We just didn't get the job done. They made the plays and we didn't. It was that simple. They weren't doing anything they weren't doing in the first half. We just didn't execute offensively or defensively."
Boca Ciega (2-3, 1-1) took advantage of Sickles' gaffes in the first half to take a 22-7 halftime lead.
Vasquez missed a 49-yard attempt with 29 seconds left in regulation. But Chris Nahat intercepted Boca Ciega quarterback Shaquille Bradford on the second play of overtime, setting up another opportunity for Vasquez.