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Spring football capsule: Sickles

Sickles quarterback Jeff Wilton throws downfield during the Gryphons’ 2-0 spring win over Leto. They meet again Oct. 23.

BRIAN BLANCO | Special to the Times

Sickles quarterback Jeff Wilton throws downfield during the Gryphons’ 2-0 spring win over Leto. They meet again Oct. 23.

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Coach: Pat O'Brien (fourth season, 10-21)

Last season: 3-7

District: Class 4A-10 (Boca Ciega, Largo, Leto)

Key losses: OL/LB Taylor Drane, LB Cody Durakovic, WR Jameel Gay (transferred to Alonso), DB Jake McFadden, OL/DL Xander Morehouse, QB Cullen O'Brien

Who's back: OL Shane Cordelione, WR Chris Nahat, LB/RB Scott O'Donoghue, CB Conner Page, DL Eric Taris, OL Nick Verlini, S P.J. Verlini, RB Cary White (transfer from Gaither)

What's new: There's a tug-of-war over O'Donoghue. O'Brien calls him the No. 1 prospect and top player for the Gryphons. The talented linebacker/running back is primarily a defensive standout, but offensive coaches are trying to utilize him as much as possible, even running him out of the Wildcat formation. "He's going to be on the field, and they're going to try to rest him on offense," O'Brien said. "… They love him on the offensive side of the ball." O'Brien said the defense will use the over-under scheme it picked up from former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Monte Kiffin. The key for Sickles will be to stop opposing running games first. Another notable to keep an eye on is Nahat, who grew 3 inches and is now 6-2. He ran a 4.5-second 40-yard dash just before spring drills.

Audible: "We feel like we have a great opportunity moving into 4A-10. We know Largo's the big dog, and they've been deep into the playoffs. We have to have our eyes set on trying to knock off Largo." — O'Brien

Did you know? After Billy Turner announced his retirement from Chamberlain, four Chiefs assistants landed on Sickles' staff. Among them was quarterback coach Brian Turner (Billy Turner's son), offensive coordinator Jeff Blume, receivers coach Jason Silbert and defensive line coach Mike Bailey. This marks Blume's second stint with O'Brien. As part of the transition, Sickles will run what O'Brien called the flexbone offense that was run at Chamberlain. "It's been a real blessing for me," O'Brien said. "Something that didn't turn out well for them turned out well for Sickles."

Spring jamboree: Sickles 2, Leto 0

2009 schedule

Sept. 4 at Gaither

Sept. 11 vs. Blake

Sept. 17 at Freedom

Sept. 25 vs. Largo

Oct. 2 at Brandon

Oct. 9 vs. Boca Ciega

Oct. 16 vs. Durant

Oct. 23 at Leto

Oct. 29 vs. Alonso

Nov. 13 at Wharton

Izzy Gould, Times staff writer

Spring football capsule: Sickles 05/30/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 30, 2009 8:51pm]
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