CITRUS PARK — Andres Vasquez's game-winning 27-yard field goal had barely sailed through the uprights last Friday night, and Sickles coach Pat O'Brien's thoughts were already squarely on the next opponent.
And why not?
Up next for the 1-4 Sickles Gryphons is Chamberlain. Undefeated and barely challenged Chamberlain. The same Chamberlain program working on a 10th straight trip to the state playoffs and perennial bully to district mate Sickles. In their past five meetings, Chamberlain has beaten Sickles by an average score of 36-5.
But for the Gryphons, playing well against Chamberlain is key for any hopes of repeating as the Class 5A, District 6 runners up. Tonight's district opener is big for both squads.
"This was big for us," said O'Brien of the 17-14 win against Bloomingdale. "We needed this. We needed a win. We got the big dog Chamberlain next week."
A full slate of games will be played tonight. Other key matchups include Freedom hosting Hillsborough in a Class 4A, District 11 game; Gaither trying to log two wins in a row as it hosts Mitchell; and Wharton entertaining Wesley Chapel in 5A-5.
All kickoffs are scheduled for 7:30 p.m.
Alonso (4-1) at King (1-3)
Last Week: Alonso defeated Freedom 27-15; King was off.
Last Year: Alonso shutout King 3-0.
The Skinny: It's official: Alonso's C.J. Bennett is among the best quarterbacks in the county. Bennett torched Freedom for 213 yards and three touchdown passes last week. He now has 12 touchdowns and two interceptions on the season. King is mired in a three-game losing streak.
The Edge: Make it four. Alonso wins — big.
Chamberlain (5-0) at Sickles (1-4)
Last Week: Chamberlain beat East Bay 21-6; Sickles defeated Bloomingdale 17-14.
Last Year: Chamberlain blanked Sickles 35-0.
The Skinny: Chamberlain overcame a big test in its win against East Bay. The Chiefs' defense hasn't given up more than two touchdowns in all of its games except one this season. Finally in the win column, the injury-depleted Sickles Gryphons are gearing up for this game.
The Edge: Sickles will give it its all, but the Gryphons are simply outmanned. Another big Chamberlain win.
Hillsborough (4-1) at Freedom (1-3)
Last Week: Hillsborough beat Riverview 61-14; Freedom lost to Alonso 27-15.
Last Year: Hillsborough defreated Freedom 37-0.
The Skinny: The Class 4A, District 11 race likely will come down to three teams. Hillsborough and Tampa Bay Tech already are 1-0 in the district while Armwood remains the favorite. That's why this game is key for the Terriers to keep up and the Patriots to try and get in the running.
The Edge: Hillsborough is no stranger to pressure games. It'll show as the Terriers top the Patriots.
Mitchell (3-1) at Gaither (2-3)
Last Week: Mitchell defeated Hudson 39-36; Gaither beat Jesuit 18-14.
Last Year: Gaither beat Mitchell 30-14.
The Skinny: The Cowboys won two of their past three games and still look to figure in the 5A-5 title chase. Mitchell has won three games in a row by a combined 11 points. Gaither, meanwhile, has a healthy Jarvis Giles back (117 yards, two touchdowns vs. Jesuit).
The Edge: A Cowboy knows how to rope a Mustang. Gaither corrals Mitchell by at least a touchdown.
Leto (2-3) at Jefferson (2-2)
Last Week: Leto defeated Lennard 46-27; Jefferson lost to Armwood 41-0.
Last Year: Jefferson beat Leto 26-7.
The Skinny: Leto earned a huge win last week in toppling the Longhorns. Do-it-all back Jeremy Deering totaled 392 all-purpose yards in the win. He might have to do that again to keep up with the Dragons' offense, which will be in a mood to score after being shut out by the Hawks.
The Edge: Jefferson takes it.
Wesley Chapel (2-3) at Wharton (3-2)
Last Week: Wesley Chapel lost to Zephyrhills 28-0; Wharton defeated Plant City 44-21.
Last Year: Wharton beat Wesley Chapel 31-7.
The Skinny: Wharton has quietly turned its season around, pulling off three straight wins after two losses. In Wesley Chapel, they'll face an inconsistent team that dropped three of its past four games.
The Edge: Wharton plans on figuring in the 5A-5 race and winning this game.