Monday, December 11, 2017
Sports

Sickles, Plant, Tampa Catholic eye state berths

CITRUS PARK

Regardless of what happens from this point, the 2013 Sickles football team will go down as the most successful in the program's 16-year history. The Gryphons shut out East Bay, 27-0, last week to advance to Friday's Class 7A Region II finals at Kissimmee Osceola.

And as talented a running back as Ray Ray McCloud is, the Gryphons have been more than the Ray Ray show. Quarterback Isaac Holder has been a facilitator on offense and wideouts Chet Levay and Jaaron Barrett have been huge contributors.

The Josh Smith-led defense has been outstanding most of the season and the special teams has been huge — kicker Daniel Lezotte had nine points in the latest victory.

Opposing coaches have heaped nothing but praise on Sickles' program this season.

East Bay coach Frank LaRosa said Sickles' 11-1 mark was no fluke, and that his team was "outmuscled."

And even in the Gryphons' one loss this season, a last-minute decision to perennial state power Plant, Panthers coach Robert Weiner spoke highly of the Gryphons and especially McCloud.

"We've played a lot of great players in 10 years, and he's about as good as anyone we've ever played," Weiner said after Plant's 24-20 victory against Sickles in early October.

Still, coach Brian Turner and the Gryphons know a shot at real greatness is still a couple of wins away.

Besides Sickles, the Plant Panthers (10-1-1) are playing at Fort Pierce Central in the Class 8A, Region II final and Tampa Catholic (10-2) hosts Jacksonville Trinity Christian in the Class 3A state semifinals.

All kickoffs are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

CLASS 7A REGION II FINALS

Sickles (11-1) at Kissimmee Osceola (10-2)

Last week: Sickles defeated East Bay 27-0; Osceola defeated Lakeland Kathleen 28-14.

Why you should go: To see if the Sickles' dream season continues. Ray Ray McCloud is running inspired right now and has surpassed 2,000 yards this season with 26 touchdowns. He'll face a stout Kowboys defense coming off playoff wins against Lakeland and Kathleen that has yielded only 10 points a game this season. Osceola has posted three shutouts and held opponents to just one score three other times. If McCloud finds the running lanes clogged, look for QB Isaac Holder to get more passing attempts.

CLASS 8A REGION II FINALS

Plant (10-1-1) at Fort Pierce Central (11-1)

Last week: Plant defeated Orlando Dr. Phillips 24-23 in OT; Fort Pierce Central defeated Manatee 17-15.

Why you should go: Because Plant is going for its fifth state semifinal in the past six years. The Panthers needed plenty of magic in escaping a last-second loss to Dr. Phillips — instead tying the contest at the end of regulation and going on to an overtime win. The Panthers, owners of four state titles since 2006, will need to avoid turnovers and penalties Friday against a Central team that beat previously unbeaten Manatee last week.

CLASS 3A STATE SEMIFINALS

Jacksonville Trinity Christian (10-1) at Tampa Catholic (10-2)

Last week: Tampa Catholic defeated Melbourne Central Catholic 45-10; Trinity Christian defeated Ocala Trinity Catholic 48-17.

Why you should go: If Tampa Catholic wins, it may want to send a thank-you card to rival Jesuit. The Crusaders closed out the regular season with yet another loss to the Tigers three weeks ago. But since then, TC has been dominant, blasting two playoff opponents by a combined score of 97-24. It's hard to say for sure whether the loss to rival Jesuit alone sparked the Crusaders, but the defense has been solid and running back T.J. Harrell has been potent offensively. Meanwhile, Trinity Christian comes into the game with its own offensive credentials, scoring 40 points or more in five of its last six contests. The winner moves on to play for a state championship Dec. 7 in Orlando.

Comments
How bad are Florida State’s football facilities?

How bad are Florida State’s football facilities?

As Jimbo Fisher was leaving Florida State for Texas A&M, an administrative commitment to facilities was one reason why.So how bad are the Seminoles' facilities, really?No. 12 in the country, according to 247Sports.That's better than Miami (...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 1

Live from Disney: Winter meetings update, day 1

UPDATE, 10:30: In addition to the Cardinals, the Rockies and Mets are considered hot in pursuit of Rays closer Alex Colome. …. Keep hearing the Angels as a potential landing spot for 3B Evan Longoria if the Rays deal him. … Rays manager K...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Rays manager Kevin Cash on trade speculation, bullpen staffing, Yankees addition of Giancarlo Stanton

Rays manager Kevin Cash on trade speculation, bullpen staffing, Yankees addition of Giancarlo Stanton

Rays manager Kevin Cash was first up in the media room at the winter meetings today and here are a few up the more interesting things he said:* On trade speculation regarding their veterans such as Chris Archer and Evan Longoria: "I know there is a l...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Explosives? On 40-yard plays, Bucs among NFL’s worst

Explosives? On 40-yard plays, Bucs among NFL’s worst

Bucs coach Dirk Koetter has key statistics that he puts great value in, finding a close correlation between success in those areas and success on the scoreboard. Winning the takeaway battle is always first among those priorities, but he and his staff...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rick and Tom podcast: Do Jameis Winston and Dirk Koetter get along?

Rick and Tom podcast: Do Jameis Winston and Dirk Koetter get along?

The Bucs guarantee another losing season after turning the ball over five times in a 24-21 loss to the Lions. In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones talk about how the Bucs stayed in the game until the end despite a non-existent pass rush...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Tampa Bay Rays cornerstone Evan Longoria “somewhere in limbo” due to trade speculation

Tampa Bay Rays cornerstone Evan Longoria “somewhere in limbo” due to trade speculation

Franchise cornerstone 3B Evan Longoria considers his future with the Rays "somewhere in limbo" based on speculation he could be traded as part of a cost-cutting and rebuilding movement."I don't know what to think, really,'' Longoria told the Tampa Ba...
Updated: 7 hours ago
The Jameis Winston-Dirk Koetter relationship: It’s complicated

The Jameis Winston-Dirk Koetter relationship: It’s complicated

  TAMPA — There are lies, damn lies and statistics, none of which are working in favor of Jameis Winston and Dirk Koetter avoiding a split in the near future. Even before the Bucs turned the football over five times and lost to the Detroit Li...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Report: Jameis Winston-Dirk Koetter relationship ‘is not in a good place’

Report: Jameis Winston-Dirk Koetter relationship ‘is not in a good place’

Jameis Winston is displeased with how coach Dirk Koetter has handled Winston's shoulder injury and the Bucs offense, according to an NFL Network report Sunday. “The relationship between quarterback Jameis Winston and Koetter is not in a good p...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Veteran 3B Evan Longoria as uncertain as anyone about Rays’ plans

Veteran 3B Evan Longoria as uncertain as anyone about Rays’ plans

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Uncertain with all the talk about potentially rebuilding if the Rays would go as far as trading franchise cornerstone 3B Evan Longoria?So is he."I don’t know what to think, really,’’ Longoria said via text message Sunday night as t...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Jones: Why Bucs coach Dirk Koetter won’t survive this

Jones: Why Bucs coach Dirk Koetter won’t survive this

  TAMPA — Dirk Koetter isn’t going to return as coach of the Bucs next season. That’s not official. No announcement has been made. No press conference is scheduled. It’s not an absolute fact. Not yet. And this isn’t a...
Updated: 5 hours ago